By, Sara Hall
There are two types of runners: runners who train to race, and runners who train to train. Those who train to train get their satisfaction purely from the training itself – they love to set personal records in practice, to take their training to new levels, and to accomplish things that maybe no one else will ever know about except them and their training log.
Then there are those who train to compete. They don’t really have the inherent drive to train for training sake, and if they didn’t have a race to prepare for, may not train at all! Instead, they see training as a means to an end – to prepare them for a competition. It’s not that they don’t enjoy the training, but they probably wouldn’t push themselves so hard for no reason if they didn’t have that race goal in mind.
Most runners lie somewhere on this spectrum. Personally, I am further towards the end of one who trains to compete, whereas Ryan would be further on the spectrum of one who trains for the pure delight of training. This is mirrored in our racing schedule: I race about 20 times a year, he races about 4-5. Granted, a marathon takes more out of you than a 1500m track race, but Ryan chooses to prioritize big training efforts over races as a means to get into a special kind of shape for his two big marathons per year. He gains all the confidence he needs for his peak marathon from his workouts, whereas if I don’t race for a month, I start to get antsy.
I’ve always been a competitive person. When I started running in 7th grade, I won my 1st race in a kick finish, and I was hooked. In junior high I opted to run in the boys races so that I could have competition, instead of easily winning the girls’ races. In high school I thrived on working out with the boys to push me in workouts (though it annoyed me how much faster their times dropped as they matured!).
Meanwhile, Ryan grew up without a team at all, running on his own and coached by his dad. He learned to gain confidence and enjoyment from pushing himself each day and seeing improvement in his workouts. This early history plays out in our racing styles- Ryan is fine running from the front, setting his own pace, and probably wouldn’t run much faster with vs. without competition in the race. Whereas I thrive when there is competition in the race to push me, and don’t do as well in solo efforts.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what type of runner you are. We were all made with different strengths and driving motivators. What I do know though is that when you know who you are, you can play to your strengths as a runner. I know that I will have a better workout if I have someone to push me, so I actively seek out training partners that will help me reach for that next level. I choose races with good competition, and I keep a steady stream of races on my schedule to keep me excited in training. In fact, I will be heading over to Europe this weekend for some summer track races, where I am looking forward to having some great competition to push me towards some fast times.
Meanwhile, Ryan will be plugging away at his training at home in Mammoth Lakes, excitedly progressing (hopefully) over the same courses he has run multiple times. This is the type of runner he is, and what has worked for him in the past. “Know Thyself”and run accordingly!