SPEED VERSUS ENDURANCE
When it comes to running (or really anything in life), it can be hard to decide where to focus your attention, what path to go down toward self-improvement and chasing your goals. On the one hand, there is what I will call the "speed" or if you prefer gold terms/more general life advice...the short game. I know nothing about golf...besides the fact that your goal is to get below par each hole and end up with the lowest score at the end of 18 holes. Whichever terminology makes sense to you, go with it.
Running fast for me means more pain...but less time enduring it. It means getting that instant gratification mid-run when you're able to maintain a pace that you previously could never have held for a minute or two...let alone several consecutive miles. Or, feeling that sense of accomplishment when you complete a run and were able to run x amount of minutes faster than the same distance you ran a week prior, or even hitting a new time PR.
It's also worth going into the debate over what fast actually means...when it comes to running, but also just life in general. In either scenario, fast is very much an individual based parameter that changes along with an individuals increased experience as well as any obstacles that one encounters in this journey we are all on called "life." For me, running at a pace of 8:50 to 9:00 min/miles is what fast looked like just a little over a month ago. It was maintainable for the last several miles of my long run, but very challenging at the same time (both mentally and physically).
Now, just having completed run number 4 after recouping from some hip issues...speed has kind of taken a backseat in my training. And I find myself craving it more and more with each run that is completed at a pace that doesn't seem "fast enough" for me. I find myself wondering if I will ever be able to be comfortable pushing myself just that right amount to where I am uncomfortable...but still able to hold a pace faster than a 9:30 or so for a prolonged period of time.
When I think of the speed:life connection...what comes to mind is what many college seniors are going through right now during their last few months of college. Getting everything figured out and getting it done NOW. Not next week or next year...but right here and now in the present. And I have found myself in that same time crunch...feeling like there is so much to get done between school and applying for jobs. Like, I almost just want to fast-forward in some fashion just to get to the part of my life/career when everything is a little bit slower. More endurance based.
What a great segway into the other side of the story when it comes to what path to go down where to focus the majority of your effort when it comes to running and life! Endurance. Long runs. Aka if you know more than me about the game of golf (which your probably do) the "long game." It requires a completely different kind of strategy...and a pain all it's own when it comes to running. It takes so much more mental toughness than most non-runners are aware of.
If you're not into speed or being in super intense pain for short burst of time...long runs are probably more your jam (or is it cup of tea?). And right now, I find myself struggling to get through 4 miles...even at a fairly relaxed, slow pace. 3 or 4 weeks ago...I was running six miles twice a week and using my 3 and 4 milers as "short" runs. Heck, just 2 1/2 months ago I was regularly running 6-8 miles outside and had crushed my longest run to date (9.07 miles) at a 9:25 pace.
When it comes to playing the long game (no matter what the situation) the hardest part is not getting that instant reward. It's more of a process, with small milestones/triumphs along the way. There is often times more lows than highs, and countless moments when you feel like giving up, because you just aren't seeing the results you expected by now. You know that if you keep working hard now (in the present) there will be a huge payoff/reward in the future. But, just how far away is that future, and what is supposed to motivate you until you get there.
Well folks, by this point you have probably realized that I have no clue which direction to take my running. I haven't ran particularly far or fast in close to 3 weeks. And with spring break on the horizon and the opportunity to run outside so close I can almost taste it...I really need to get my shit together. I know that first outside run is going to suck. And be terribly slow compared to the paces I was running over Christmas break. And long runs won't be what they used to be...that's for sure.
For me, what makes long runs particularly fun...is being able to run sort of fast so that way I am essentially improving my speed and endurance all at the same time. Obviously, I don't go all out those first few miles (I mean at least I try not to!), but I find a comfortably fast pace and stick with it for 6-8 miles until I either run down a super steep hill, realized I only have x distance left to cover, or see someone I know...then all bets are off and I'm full out sprinting to the finish line.
The point is, I don't think there is a right answer, in running or life, when it comes to focusing on speed versus endurance. I think the main thing to keep in mind (and I am reminding myself of this quite often) is that your current location is not your final destination. Just because you're not where you wanna be right now fitness or career wise...doesn't mean you won't get there. It just takes time, patience, and whole lot of effort. And dedication to the process...dedication to picking a path and sticking to it. Even when things suck. Even when it feels like you're just spinning your wheels.
I am heading into day 5 tomorrow with the goal of running fast...whatever that means given my current running state. I plan to increase the speed every 1/2 miles or so until I can't go any faster. From there, going into spring break, I want to alternate every other run between focusing on speed and endurance. Will this get me back to running 9 miles in no time of all? Perhaps. It all depends on your definition of time itself, and whether my body decides to cooperate given the hilly terrain and my often times far from perfect running form.