Whether it feels like it or not (and many days, especially in those first three miles, it does not), we all have our talents when it comes to running. Some people are strong sprinters and can run crazy fast for short distances, while others don’t unlock their true potential until running the marathon distance or longer. In an ideal world, we would all play to our strengths and run the distance best suited to our unique abilities, but if the news lately tells us anything, it’s that we do not live in an ideal world.
So what’s a runner to do when you fall in love with a distance that, quite frankly, doesn’t really love you back? I’ve experienced this unrequited running love first hand. Although I recently finished my 50th marathon, the marathon distance is definitely not my strong suit. How is that possible? How can I have finished 50 marathons and say that I’m not really that great at running the marathon distance? Well, it’s simple – my half marathon, 10k, and 5k PRs all predict that I should be able to run much faster in the marathon than I’ve ever come close to accomplishing. Is it a simple issue of mind over matter? Maybe, but either way, I’ve never been able to reach what seems like my true potential at that distance (not that I am particularly speedy to begin with).
I realized a few years ago that I am probably not physically well suited to the marathon distance; I have major back issues that required surgery last year. But still, I found myself returning to the marathon distance again and again. Ultimately, I loved the marathon and didn’t really care if it loved me back. Just being around marathons and marathoners was enough for me; whether I was “good” at it or not was of no consequence. To be honest, if I only did things I was good at, I would never do anything remotely athletic.
I say all that to say this: it doesn’t matter if your favorite distance loves you back. The vast majority of us are not professional runners and will never be on the podium. Although not every run is perfect, the distances we run and the races we participate in should ultimately be fun; otherwise, what’s the point? So whether you’re an endurance champ with a love for the 5k or a sprinter who just can’t stay away from ultras, let your love shine through. Like they say, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!