18 January 2016

“Just” The Short Course

“Just” The Short Course

No doubt we have all heard this answer when asking what race are you doing today?

I’ll start with a question. Why is it an issue for a runner to choose the shorter option at a trail event that offers a variety of competitive distances?

STS Manly Dam Jan 2016
 2nd Medium Course
We are lucky these days to have the opportunity to be involved in several events on both road and trail that offer a range of distances giving runners more options to choose from. My reflection is that in the past I have been more likely to run the longest (or second longest) option available having only run two competitive 5km races, many of the early STS 10km races back when it was the longest option on offer (no official road 10km though) and a handful of half marathons. I have probably ran in close to as many marathons or ultra’s as I have below marathon distance in my 3 years of running! Is this slightly crazy?!?!

Over the weekend I felt, after discussing it with coach Dave, the 12km at STS was best for me with where I am at in my training. The longer option was tempting but I didn’t need to run the extra 9 or 10km just because I could. People afterwards remarked (surprisingly) that I had dropped down to the shorter option… why? I thought.

The reasons why someone might choose and why I chose to run a race that is not the longest on offer might be:

-       They don’t want to recover for as long. I needed to get back into training straight away and couldn’t afford the additional recovery time needed (yes you need to recover even in ultra running).
-       The higher intensity effort offers a different feeling for the runner. I needed to test my threshold and speed and a race seemed like a great opportunity.
-       They may be practicing aspects of their racing in the shorter event. I wanted to see how my climbing at intensity was before my upcoming mountain races to specifically direct my training for this type of running.
-       They might want to run 5 or 10km or 6  or 8, whatever the distance is instead of the long course. The STS events are all competitive these days in my view and no matter what distance I race I will be tested so I wanted to test myself in a shorter event.
-       People may want to socialise before and after the event. I wanted to catch up with people after the race and normally after the long course I can’t for the need to leave or having been out for so long already (yes I have a life out of running too).

So why are we pushing to run the longest we can in a trail event? Is it becoming a culture within trail running?

The UTA has 4 options and I am not decided on what length I will race at the moment. I will make the choice closer to the date based on my fitness and situation. At Buffalo I am running the Skymarathon and I haven’t actually locked in an ultra for 2016 yet, nor am I about to. I am approaching my racing in a more minimal way with the intention of performing to my potential each time. I am sure I will continue to run ultras and the long events into the future but I am also going to run the vertical km or 5km races too.

Do we feel pressured to run long too often?

Yes, I feel we do. “Others do so I must” or “because he/she can so why can’t I?” People are far more open to see what others are doing in their running with blogs, social media, Strava, running groups, clubs and so on. This will inevitably lead to a sub pressure to keep up along with the risk of injury, poor performance, adrenal fatigue or burn out. One thing I am certain about as a coach when I discuss racing with my clients, I always suggest what is best for them based on their goals, their fitness and their program, nothing else. They then can chose what race they do but hopefully with a better understanding of what they need or require. This is and has to be individual for each person.

So perhaps into the future the need to be more supportive of why people are running and not what event they are running in will become the focus. And yes there is nothing tougher than slogging out an ultra, but it is also bloody hard going holding threshold for 30, 40 or 60 minutes. So get out and run whether it is short, long or medium in distance but do it because you want to not because everyone else is or expects you to!

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