{running for speed vs. running for distance}

I want to talk running for speed/time versus running for endurance/distance today.

Having only run 5Ks up to this point (which isn’t quite true, because I’ve actually surpassed that distance on my Saturday morning long runs, but let’s pretend like my personal long runs aren’t the same as a timed race), until recently it never really occurred to me that someone would pick between running to be speedy versus running for distance.

Obviously there are people who run long distances pretty darn fast. Women in my age group (18-34) who want to qualify for the Boston Marathon must BQ at 3hrs 35min 00sec (that’s an average-ish 8:12 minute mile…. I currently average a 12:00-14:00mm… so 8:12 is fast, IMO). Shalane Flanagan ran the 2014 Berlin Marathon in 2:21:14, and the 2014 Boston Marathon in 2:22:02.

To put things in perspective, the last time I ran 9mi, it took me 2:03:42. I assume you can do some simple math. Sooooooo… yeeeeeeah.

And then there are people who have never run more than a mile, ie: Usain Bolt. Just because he’s the fastest sprinter in the world doesn’t mean he’d be good at longer distances.

Wait, what???

According to TIME, “it’s possible he might not fare better than a pretty good member of a high school track team—his body, tall and muscular, is better suited for sprinting than distance running.”

Wow… so wait… you’re telling me that people who make their livelihood running fast might not survive a half marathon? And here I am training for a half marathon at a snail’s pace to ensure that I will be able to cross the finish line…

youvsboltfraserpriceImage Credit: Services for Runners


But back to this 5K thing: every time I run one of these, it seems like I’m 10min into my run when the leader shoots past me in the opposite direction.

I don’t get it. Why? Why go so fast? I’m just thrilled to drag my body across the finish line under my own power. Of course, had you told me six months ago that I’d train for a half marathon, I would’ve laughed in your face, because I can barely get across the 5K finish line, let alone tacking on another 10mi to that.


I was perfectly content running 5Ks… until I wasn’t.

My speed has pretty much always been the same, regardless of distance. I mean, I’ve managed to shave time off my 5K since starting this one-5K-per-month goal a year ago. I haven’t had any interest in speeding up for my shorter distances, mostly because I still hate running and just can’t get comfortable pushing myself harder. I don’t like sweating enough to work harder. I don’t like it when my lungs hurt and my legs burn. I just don’t. And truthfully, the risk of injuring myself is too high, and if I derail my half marathon plans just because I wanted to break a 30min 5K, I’m going to be really pissed with myself.

Pending relatively flat terrain, I only recently got to the point where I can run 3mi without taking walking breaks. (Spoiler: I still like to take walk breaks anyway!) I definitely can’t do more than 3mi without walk breaks, but that’s fine!

Image Credit: NoShameNation

So where does that leave me?

Plodding away at an average 13:00mm, hoping that I can maintain that for a longer distance without slowing down too much. I’m training with run/walk intervals, and planning to run my first half in October with the same intervals.

But I won’t lie… I am toooooooooootally attracted to this:


This is a snippet of the pacing chart on the runDisney website. Do you know what this says?

Let me tell you.

This says that if I could maintain a 12:30mm, I could finish the Princess Half Marathon in just under 2:45. I have to submit proof of time if I think I’m going to finish under 2:45, which is why I’m running my first half in October – to obtain valid proof of time. If anything, it’s going to keep me out of the last corral which hopefully means I’ll be with a crowd running my pace instead of dodging and tripping over walkers (again, no shame!), and that there might be shorter lines for photos with characters along the way. But to be able to finish in under 2:45?……… that’s really sexy.

I don’t think I’ll be able to swing it for my half next month. But I have six more months to shave some time off my pace for Disney. Is it doable? Sure. Do I want to? Maybe. Does it matter if I don’t? Nope. For real, the goal is to just cross the finish line under my own power.

But it’s a hell of a motivator…

Do you run for speed or distance? How have you trained for your preference?


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