One of the things that you will see out there to motivate people is that a mile is a mile is a mile. It doesn’t matter if you ran that mile in less than 4 minutes or more than 20, it is still a mile. The same goes for a marathon. If you run it in 2:05 or it takes the full 9 hrs, you still completed a marathon, which puts you among an elite group of people. Less than 1% of the population has completed a marathon.
Now, getting to that marathon takes determination, perseverance, and of course, training. As a runner, particularly marathon running, there are lots of training plans out there, and all have their own strategy.
Also, depending on what Facebook pages you follow you will read about people going out for long runs, and I mean looooooonnnnnngggggg runs. I see folks that are running over 50 miles a week. Some are putting in closer to 80 or 100 miles. Lots of runners are running close to 10 miles during the week and more on the weekends and I know one guy who frequently runs 30 miles for training.
These distances must work for them, but I don’t think I have ever ran more than 42 miles in one week’s time, but that was because I ran a marathon on Sunday, with a half marathon the following Saturday, with a 5k training run in the middle. I also have never run more than 17 miles that wasn’t a race.
I must say that when I see these long distance posted by folks for their morning runs, my 4 mile run seems a bit small. I wonder why I shouldn’t run more miles in the morning, like 8 or 10. I sometimes think that my runs aren’t good enough.
But here’s the thing, as a stay at home dad, I already get up at 4:45 am to get my 4 mile run in before the family wakes up, and I don’t want to get up much earlier. I have a 6 month old to take care of during the day, and I don’t need to be more tired than I already am. This is going to get worse during the summer when I have to take care of the Dashing Son too.
Now, there are lots of good reasons for running lots of miles, your legs get used to churning out the miles, and if you go beyond your goal distance (13.1, 26.2, etc.), then you have the confidence knowing you can do those miles during the race. Also, if you know you can run 30 miles in say, 6 hrs, you should be able to increase your effort to get a marathon in about 5 hrs. I have talked to ultra runners who say that the ultra distances have improved their marathon times because their body becomes more efficient in burning stored energy (fat) and you get more distance per calorie burned.
On the flip side, the more miles you run, the more prone you are to injury. Not just from the repetitive motion of running, but more time on the track/road. You are more likely to trip on the sidewalk, step in a pot hole, get chased by a dog, etc. Also, those long runs can kinda suck. Being away from the house, by yourself for 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or more hours isn’t all that much fun. Maybe if you are running with somebody equally crazy, it wouldn’t be so bad. Also, you have to plan to carry water, electrolytes, and fuel. My opinion is that if you are going to run more than 12 miles, you might as well sign up for a race. That way there is fuel and water along the course, first aid/medical if you need it, a bunch of people to run with, people cheering you on, and a medal. Run a 5k or 10k before the race starts, or if you are fast(er), run back on the course to help a friend who might be behind you. Heck, get a bunch of runners, run back to the very last runner, and run with them. Give them the encouragement to finish the race.
So, I feel that sometimes less is more, and I use the Galloway training method for my races. I modify it a little bit where I walk for a minute or so every water stop. But, for some folks, they need the extra mileage for training, so do what works best for you.
If they say a mile, is a mile, is a mile, and it doesn’t matter if it takes 4 minutes or 24 minutes. Therefore, a run, is a run, is a run and it doesn’t matter if it is 1 mile or 100 miles, you are out there running. Depending on your situation, completing a 5k may be more impressive then somebody else running a 100 miles. Just do the best that you can, and keep going, don’t worry how fast or how far the other guy is going. All you have to worry about is getting your run done and meeting YOUR goals, let the other person worry about their goals.