Realism and Running

Have you read The Sports Gene by David Epstein? Go read it and then come back to this little blog post.

As we get heavy into marathon season, runners will be scrutinizing their training plans and performances, analyzing the data to explain the outcome of their chosen race. Blame will be placed on Mother Nature, hydration, lack of training, overtraining, injuries, illness, food, and the Man on the Moon.

(Image courtesy of davegranlund.com)

(Image courtesy of davegranlund.com)

Does it matter?

Your performance on any given race day is not necessarily indicative of your ability to perform at a certain level. Even the pros have a bad day when their training has been “perfect”.

Dennis Kimetto at the Boston Marathon in 2014. He dropped out. On Sunday he ran 2:02:57 and broke the Men's World Record in the Marathon. (Via Luke Maher @LWarrenMaher on Twitter)

Dennis Kimetto at the Boston Marathon in 2014. He dropped out. On Sunday he ran 2:02:57 and broke the Men’s World Record in the Marathon.                                                     (Via Luke Maher @LWarrenMaher on Twitter)

But what if it keeps happening race after race? No matter how you adjust your training, your fuel, your gear, your PT, you just can’t seem to get there with your running.

What gives?

Everyone has the capacity to run, it’s part of our mechanics as human beings. BUT everyone’s body also has a speed threshold, even the pros. We all top out at a certain speed, a certain distance. It depends heavily on our genetic make up. Within that genetic component is your body’s ability to respond to training.

Basically, some people have it, some people don’t.

(Read the book)

From a physical therapy standpoint, some people’s body mechanics are perfectly designed for running. From the top to the bottom, their alignment, weight distribution, and gait are perfect. When body mechanics are messy and asymmetrical, that’s where the wheels come off.

Asymmetry and less than perfect body mechanics wastes energy, uses muscles and joints in the wrong way, and put you at greater risk for injury with every step you take. Most important to the majority of runners, it will greatly affect your ability to hit certain paces.

Except Priscah Jeptoo. Her form is crazy but she still smokes the field. 1% anomaly.  (Image courtesy of iaaf.org)

Except Priscah Jeptoo. Her form is crazy but she still smokes the field. 1% anomaly.
(Image courtesy of iaaf.org)

We are not the 1%. The 1% is Dennis Kimetto, Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, Usain Bolt, Shalane Flanagan, Jenny Simpson. These people are genetic anomalies whose bodies operate at a completely different level than 99% of the population.

So should you be really disappointed that you haven’t qualified for Boston? Absolutely not. Should you keep trying, year after year, through injury after injury, training cycle after training cycle? That’s up to you.

If you hate it, stop. Don’t torture yourself trying to achieve some goal you think everyone else in the world has met. Run shorter distances. Stop running. Try swimming. Take up yoga. You might be awesome at boxing, I don’t know.

Point is, there’s nothing wrong with you just because you can’t run a sub-4:00 marathon. Nothing at all. And if you want to keep going, rock on. But if you want to take a break, do it.

Join me at Refine Method!...or the bar :)

Join me at Refine Method!…or the bar 🙂

Now go out and run.

(I received no compensation whatsoever from Penguin Books, David Epstein, or anyone else involved with The Sports Gene. I just really, really liked the book and science in general. You should read it.)

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4 thoughts on “Realism and Running

  1. ehhh anytime i have a time goal, it seems my body has issues. when i run just to run and let my running progress, as it is want to do on it’s own time, it seems to be able to do it, mostly injury free. this is something i have been thinking about lately. i dont know if i do or dont have a better time for any specific distance in me. i am not built like a runner and we both know i have imbalances. i think these are important things to take into account when anyone sets running goals. (as sad as it may make me, and others, to admit it)

  2. I love this post! Some of my friends think I’m crazy for how much I love running so I always tell them that it’s not for everyone. They don’t HAVE to love running just because I do. I think all runners have bad days, bad training runs, bad races. If you love it, like I do, you get back up and try again. I’m excited about my next running adventure– a full marathon TBD 🙂

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