Let me set the stage. I have an extremely well-meaning (very important as this is not someone coming out of the blue to offer unsolicited advice) running friend who often tries to get me to focus on one particular race. While this is a common question or shall I say needling from many, this one friend seems intent on making sure I do not waste my "talent". Again, I appreciate his intentions so there is no negativity directed towards him.
In response to my 20kc recap the other day, he responded as such:
"Hi Dane,Now that you have run 7 million races of different distances, its time to focus on a goal such as running a 2:45 marathon. There is a big difference between 2:45 and 3 hrs. If you can do this, you can actually say you have improved.
Running lots of races without getting better or faster is equivalant to running hard by yourself, etc. It would be different if you were some run of mill guy who runs races to stay in shape. However, you are a fanatic(in a good way) and might was well focus your passion for the sport so that you do not run out of steam before you were able to run a fast marathon.
Eventually all marathon runners die out as one can only take running 26.2 miles on a regular basis for so long. I do not expect you to listen to this as only injury leads one to run more carefuly."
I was going to respond to him in the forum where this was placed but instead decided to address it here in a more concise manner. Why? By no means did I want to embarrass or harangue a friend. I just wanted to let others know that I do have a plan, I d0o have a focus and I do see the bigger picture. So here is my response:
I didn't realize the horse had come back to life so that we could beat it to death again! :) But allow me to add my two cents since your response was directed at me.
I am unsure why you think I am presently unfocused or what I am doing is not a plan. My goal IS to do exactly what I am doing this year: run as many different distances improving in all of them as I go. Yes, even when I set PRs at certain distances, it is obvious they are not the best PR I could set for that distance. One simply cannot give their best to a race as short as a mile while also trying to set a new PR in a marathon with an idea also to run a fast time for a 24 hour run. It is impossible to do so. The distances and what goes into them are so vastly different that it is obvious I am either sacrificing speed or endurance or both by trying to scattershot my races. However, that is what I want to do right now in 2007. THAT is my goal. To show that it is possible to run fast times, relative to your ability, at a plethora of distances.
Why you refuse to acknowledge this as a “focus” is beyond me given how many times I have said it to you!
Listen, I know there is a huge gap b/w 2:45 and 3 hours. Once you hit that 3 hour barrier, dropping seconds is like dropping minutes for a person who runs a 5 hour marathon. However (and this is a point I have driven home often but not effectively), a 2:45, while "fast" is not FAST. My concentrating all my energy on running a 2:45 will simply move me from the group of "good" to "pretty good" but no where near "great" nor "elite". Presently, I don't have the desire to do to set aside time in my life to simply become “pretty good” at something. I have the desire to excel at something few have done. In addition, I simply want to see what I can actually do!
As you alluded to, I may run out of steam relatively soon. Luckily, I think I have many years of faster marathon times in me. But I think whatever “speed” I have in the shorter distances will evaporate long before my marathon times stop going down. Ergo, I will try to get some fast 5k and 10k times out first as undoubtedly THAT speed will be gone before my marathon speed will.
You say: "Eventually all marathon runners die out as one can only take running 26.2 miles on a regular basis for so long." I have heard similar refrains when I considered doing 52 in a year. Heck, my own running club doubted I would be able to run fast near the end, let alone be able to even FINISH them (No kidding, there was almost a NCAA-type pool placed on whether I would finish. I wish it had started because I would be quite rich betting on myself). But obviously, the shelf-life of these legs of mine is a little longer than others. Perhaps because I, like you, started "running" at such an "older" age. We don't have the miles and pounding and exertion that some of our brethren who raced all through high school and college do. Perhaps I missed out on some of my top-notch speed possibilities but so be it. I don't think pure speed is something I ever had anyway. Besides, Ed Whitlock, ran a 2:52 at age 69 and then a 2:54 at age 73. If that is dying out, I want me a little something of that!
In addition, you add "I do not expect you to listen to this as only injury leads one to run more carefuly." This quote makes the (untrue) assertion that you not only haven't told me this before (you have) or that I haven't listened or given it careful consideration (both which I have as well). Finally there is the imbedded in that statement the idea that I have been injury-free which is I tell you is completely untrue. I simply don’t complain abut my IT band or my exhausted body or my tired this or that as I hear so many other runners do. Often they do so right before a race that they end up smoking me in, so you can see the disdain I have for those who lay the mattresses out before a race.
I appreciate, truly your desire to help me maximize whatever talent I have. I know your desire to assist is genuine. I just cannot figure out why when you hand out advice you do not listen to the person speaking back to you.
Without any doubt whatsoever I have intentions to "focus" on a marathon someday and hopefully get a 2:45. I have 3 marathons planned for the remainder of the year where I hope to chip away at the 2:59 PR at each one. I think by the end of the year I will be in the low 2:50s and possibly break 2:50. But as I have said ad nauseum: who cares if I do? A sub 2:50 is hardly world-beating and if not for the plethora of slow Americans running the marathon these days, a 2:50 would barely be note-worthy.
You have told me in the past that I need to pick a distance and focus on it. Well since I have barely run them all and some I have only run once, perhaps twice, I can hardly know which distance I prefer before I can focus on it.
I am always happy to listen to constructive criticism. I welcome it. But it must be constructive first off. Second it cannot be the same criticism over and over again without at least some acknowledgement of what my previous responses were. If in 10 years I am lamenting how I wasted my talent or speed or something on racing too much, you have every right to smack me upside the head.
Until that point, please continue to give me advice. But I beg that you take into account that I may, just maybe, might possibly, probably have some sort of an idea of what I am doing.
Spreading the love right back to ya!