Posted by: Joe English | June 24, 2012

Training — Longer Means Slower, Shorter Means Faster

running-advice-bugAs is often the case, I’m thinking today about a misconception about running because of something someone said to me today. I was planning on running a race as part of my training and was talking with the race director. There were options for 5K and 10K and I had opted for the 5K. I’ll come back to why I was running in the 5K in a minute. But the race director says to me, “Running the 5K? Oh that’s too bad. Why not run the 10K, you can do it?”

Coach Joe Post-Race

First of all, you really should look at a person before you make a statement like this. I was wearing a Boston Marathon jacket at the time. But I digress.

Here’s the thing. People tend to equate “longer” to “harder”. The thinking goes that the longer the race, the more difficult it is. And in one way this is true. For new runners, or runners who are trying to increase their distance, there is something to this thinking. For the fitness and weight-loss interested it might make sense to be testing ones limits and trying to increase the distance — making the longer race “harder”.

But once runners have surpassed this distance barrier, the selection of the distance comes down to the intensity of the workout. Running longer means running slower and running shorter distances means running faster.

We all know this to be true instinctively. Even at the most elite levels this is true. Look at the world records in the marathon and the 5K. Which is faster on a pace per mile basis? Of course, the pace in the 5K is faster. This is true of all distances from 100M to the marathon and the ultra-marathon. As the length of the race gets longer, the pace sustained in the race goes down.

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