As runners no matter how fast or slow we are right now, as much as we say we don’t care, we’d all like to be a little faster. In fact we do crazy things like run up and down the same hills over and over just trying to get a hair faster. But rarely do those speedwork runs feel fast (or really great) if we’re being honest. The adrenaline of a race where you might well be breaking a record however makes you feel like you’re jet powered. That’s a big part of why they keep getting my money after all. We buy special things like smart watches to monitor our pace in real time and lust after professional runner’s carbon fiber shoes. Would you feel great about that expensive purchase though if it did make you faster but feel like you were running through cold molasses? I would have said yes but now I’m not so sure.
What got me thinking about feel vs reality
What got me thinking about this was a new pair of shoes I bought that strayed from my usual neutral Asics gel somethings. I was on facebook marketplace when a pair of super new, super cheap Asics came up in my size and I hopped on them. I was looking for a shoe to run junkier miles in during half training this summer. The thing is I neglected to do was actually look up the shoe… turns out they are a stability shoe for pronators. Ooops! Now despite what you’ve heard there is no real difference beyond feel for injury prevention for wearing ‘the wrong’ type of shoe. Once I discovered that I figured I paid my money for these, I’m wearing them and its still a cheap way to try a new shoe.
Anyway short story I hated how they felt but then I checked out my splits. The shoes themselves felt heavy and bulky, probably that was the stability part but I decided to burn them out anyway. Specifically we’re talking the GT-500’s. A great shoe, loved by many but not by me. As I ran in them more the times I was pulling off just didn’t match my perceived pace out on the road. How fast well I broke my fastest km ever record wearing them which had been standing since 2011 I think. All that considered I don’t think I would buy them again.
Point: Fastest is best
What is there other than speed if you ever want to PR ever again? If you’re trying to get faster at all what possible reason would you bypass something that would help you get there. Look at Nike’s Breaking 2 attempts. The story goes that even the world’s all time best marathoner’s get a leg up with technology. Everyone talks about the 4% and no one ever talks about how they feel to run in. If you want for speed than the splits are all that matter period!
Besides that going faster isn’t known to feel better in general. The more you push your limits the worse it generally feels. We all talk long and hard about doing speed work, pushing harder and Fartlek, interval hill repeats we just leave out the parts where it kinda sorta feels like you’re dying. Over time if you keep pushing that hard during your speed workouts it sucks a little bit less, you get faster overall and it’s time to go up another notch. Getting faster isn’t easy and you know what it doesn’t feel easy either. Even if something makes you feel slower but in fact turns out some of your fastest runs that’s really all that matters. If your goal really is to get faster you’ll take it if it works!
Counterpoint: Feeling fast is enough
Most of us run because we love it whether we race or not. There are lots of hard things about running that can keep us far from motivated to get out there having sneakers that make you feel anything less than your best isn’t necessary. Even for racing hardcore training athletes most of your time on your feet isn’t going to be record breaking. Mostly it’s in between hard workouts and races. Feeling fast and light on your feet is more important than feeling slow but going fast because that makes you love running more an that’s what’s most important.
Feeling great is motivation to get out there and put in the hard work that ultimately leads to a PR. While you won’t feel amazing most of the time when you’re first starting out if you stick with it for a few months you’ll start to get that fast, flying feeling and nothing is more motivating to get back out there than that! It’s a big part of that fabled runner’s high after all. When you feel great you run more, train harder and take on bigger challenges and that is the tried and tested method for becoming a better runner!
How I really feel
So I love running I have a lot of experience doing it but I never have and probably never will get anything other than a participant medal. I love to race and I’ll work for and take a PR any day, and celebrate the crap out of that too! I do train for a big race most years but I spend the vast majority of every year just running and enjoying it! Race shoes are also my speedwork shoes and sometimes long run shoes too. If a shoe makes my run feel crappy enough it’s not worth the speed increase over my race shoes that already feel amazing. Running makes me feel light, fast and free and if it’s going to make me feel heavy, slow and miserable someone is going to have to pay me to feel that way or I’m going to have to start winning. I bet that feels pretty great too!
I already know that there are kicks out there that make me a hair faster, give me the support I need to stay injury free and feel great for all my runs including races. I also know that if you haven’t found yours yet they are out there too! Running should make you feel good the vast majority of the time, bad runs do happen and are to be expected, but overall your runs should make you feel better. Life is just too short to run with gear that makes you feel anything less than a warrior. Those 10 or even 15 seconds a kilometer really aren’t worth loving running any less for me. If you’re wondering I have the same philosophy for all the activities I do. I’d rather have slower puncture resistant tires with tread for triathlons than suffer a flat, occasionally fuss with am MP3 player when I swim laps and keep my lady bits happy with softer suspension on my mountain bike. Feeling fast is my jam and once theses shoes are done I won’t be repurchasing them. But I’ll use them up since did pay money for them after all!
So where do you stand on the issue? Would you embrace gear that made you a touch faster but feel less than ideal? Maybe just for races? Or would you rather feel fast and great and take a few extra seconds out on the road?