Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Is going long just an excuse for running slow?

Is going long just an excuse for running slow? Discuss...

Of course us ultra runners all know the answer to this question, but trying convincing the rest of the running fraternity of this and you get a swift revoke. Those in my running club say what they say mainly just to wind me up, and not because of any deep beliefs but all the same they are still thinking it and I often find myself trying to defend the art of running long (and slower), rather than running a 3hr marathon which is what they all say I should be doing.

I could be quick to dismiss all this and just get on with what I enjoy and do best, but obviously something has triggered me to post this question and seek answers from other ultra and non-ultra runners alike.

Why should I need to defend what I do as not an excuse for running slow. Why isn't running long as respected as running fast (of course there are those special talents who mix running long with running fast) but on the whole I think we all agree that running long does mean 'appropriate pacing'. This is neccesary to cope with the changes in both the terrain and profile, as well as extra distance being attempted. Of course road runners seldom experience the type of terrain and descents and ascents that ultras races serve up. And perhaps because of this they simply can not relate to what ultras are about and thus don't get it.

So where am I going with this... I'm not sure I know myself. Perhaps I shouldn't feel the need that i need to justify running long to my running peers, or why my marathon times  are so slow, but something inside me obviously seeks to do just this, rather than just let it lie and go enjoy myself.

Ultimately I think ultra-running should get the same recognition as something that demands just as much dedication in training and competing as other distances. But I'm certainly not after recognition from my peers but just a acknowledgement that I'm not selecting the easy option, that I chose to run ultras because that's what I do, not because I couldn't run a 3hr marathon if I decided I wanted to and train for it.

Perhaps most of this is in my head, and that this post is actually an internal wrangle I'm having with myself about whether what I'm doing is getting the very best out of me in terms of my abilities. There's no doubt that being a member of a running club the talk is all about times, and PBs, and because of this after a while you feel a need to prove yourself even if it's not your distance. And I don't mean proving something to them, but to yourself... So that I can feel that despite being an ultra runner I am still as capable as going as fast as you. And I think the recent XC season has proved to me that I do seek this comparison when racing my peers. No one likes to lose and I'm no different. 

I will perhaps take time to reflect on the above, and see what you guys think about all this. Let me know if this strikes a cord with anybody. Because if it's just me then I'm the one with the issue not them, and I should stop the internal wrangle between running long or fast! 

And if I read this post back and realise it's just total garbage then I won't be offended at a lack of responses! The most likely outcome I'm sure.....


  1. Hey Stu. I have seen this argument flying around for some time now. It is often quoted by many runners that going long just gives you and excuse to run slow.

    I guess they missed what Ian Sharman recently did at Rocky Raccoon 100 miler averaging 7.38 min/miles for 100 miles! Ultras are a different challenge and test a different set of variables compared to running a sub 3 hr marathon.

    To be honest I do want to achieve a sub 3 hr marathon and it's high on my list of things to do in the near future however you just cannot compare like for like ultras and marathons just like you cannot compare the 100 meters spring to a 10km race.

    Everyone is different and ultimately we should do what makes us happy.

  2. F**k 'em. They obviously know which buttons to press to wind you up so don't rise to the bait. Tell them to enter something like the Ridgeway and then have a chat about it. You've done the halfs and the marathons so you're in a position to compare but if they haven't done ultras, they're not.

    Anyway, what's the issue with running slow? ;)

  3. Draconian - chill out a bit mate. I'm one of his friends at our running club and this was a light hearted discusson in the pub fuelled by a few beers.

    I suppose it's the frustration that some ultra runners like Stu might miss out on running some great times, especially as he can also put in some great short 4k times. We see that as a great recipe for a great marathon time. (26 miles would is a doddle too!!)

    I would never belittle anyone who can run that far - I know that my hip flexors wouldn't allow it!I do know all about the ridgeway distance wise.

  4. Cheers for comments and debate guys! It's almost like a real forum discussion with the abuse flying ;-) hehe. Lol. Glad my post sparked this kind of reaction. Just to set the record straight this post was not an attack on my running mates... Even if they are incapable of stringing something as simple as a double marathon together :-)

  5. Good subject Stu, close to many of us I'm sure. I'm also told in training by people I'm faster than I should be running X mins for X dist, as they are / have done.

    I reckon you could easily train to be a sub-3 or close to marathon. Is it so easy to could they train to do 24hour off-road run? Maybe I'm biast but I prefer the mileage challenge and like the things I see along the way.

  6. In reply to the title, in my case, yes. I can't do anything else.