Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seriously Serious Running

Recent chunder around the interweb has been centered about what makes a runner “serious”. Serious, of course, being the counter position to casual – which in runners’ parlance is like being someone who kicks babies and prays to Satan.

The responses have been fairly interesting because it seems like for the most part runners have determined what a serious runner is based entirely on their personal preferences, idiosyncrasies, and accomplishments. So if you don’t run with music anyone who does is typically trying to ruin the sport. If you’ve under-prepared for a long run and your shirt has rubbed your nipples into bloody nubs of searing pain, then anyone who hasn’t made that lapse in judgment can’t possibly understand what running is about. And if you’ve run four marathons you tend to think that the measure of a “serious” runner is having completed somewhere between three and five of them. Ballpark.

I’m not a huge fan of the serious and casual vernacular, simply because I think it spurs a conversation centered around quantitative values. A serious runner does this many miles, does this many races, runs this fast, has been running for this long, runs this many times a week, etc. But a deviation does exist, and whether it’s serious or casual, real or fake, hard or soft-core, I agree that when I’m in the Park I’m passing more than just one type of bipedal mammal.

Personally I prescribe to Pearl Izumi’s answer to the question (that I’ve talked about before,) which revolves around the premise that the line between running and jogging begins when it stops being easy. A recent Runners’ World ad reads, “If you just ran without sacrifice congratulations, you just jogged.” It makes sense because running really isn’t easy. Long runs shouldn’t be easy, workouts shouldn’t be easy, and racing should NEVER be easy. Easy is sort of the antithesis of running. In fact, the only time easy works its way into running is when you’re running something easy to recover so you can run harder. Running is actually hard – painfully so, and should be followed by hand on knee reverence and constant fear.

And when you think about things in terms of that the rest of the story falls into place.

Runners: Buy light-weight moisture wicking technical running apparel because it will help them dissipate perspiration quicker thus keeping them dryer which will facilitate faster times and longer runs with increased comfort.
Joggers: Buy light-weight moisture wicking technical running apparel because they saw a runner wearing it. And it looks cool.

Runners: Have different shoes to meet different training and racing scenarios. Vomeros for long runs, Elites for tempos, Kataras for 10Ks, Marathoners for half marathons, Zoom XCs for cross country races, a pair of spikes for the track, trail shoes for trail runs, a second pair of Vomeros to use on days after doing long runs on the first pair, etc.

Joggers: Have a pair of Asic 2100s some guy at Jack Rabbit recommended.
Runners: Do long runs so they can run their race harder.

Joggers: Do long runs so their race will be easier.
Runners: Do races to achieve personal goals, test the limits of their own personal endurance, or get the high that can only be achieved by silencing your own self doubt.

Joggers: Run races to get the NYRR 9 race automatic entry. Or because they’ve decided that they need to finish a marathon. Typically they pick a goal time and train for it, rather than training to run as fast as possible.

Runners: Do track workouts, interval training, fartleks, long runs, recovery runs, and tempos.
Joggers: Jog.

I could go on, and there are a lot of others that the seven of you can feel free to add, but the point is that things done by joggers serves the function of making running easier, and things done by runners is to allow them to run harder. It’s has nothing to do with how fast you go, how slow you go, how far you go, or how often you’re out there. Someone running 13 minute pace could be Alan Webb if 13 minute miles is as hard as they can possibly move without slipping into unconsciousness.

Agree, disagree, make a counter point, but it’s my blog and that’s my opinion. So get out there and push yourselves a little – or not. Baby kicker.


Laura said...

Again, I find it funny that everyone tells me what a crazy runner I am, because so far almost every criteria list that people have made defines me solely as a jogger/casual runner.

PLe1 said...

If you're running two marathons back to back you're making massive sacrifices of your time, your health, your general well being, etc.. There's nothing casual about that.

chia said...

Ya, I even walked funny after some of Laura's races LOL. Sympathy lactic buildup ;-)