How Endurance Runners are Different from other Runners

Many runners run for years before they every cross that endurance threshold. That’s what happened to me too. I ran off and on for almost 20 years before I ever took on an endurance challenge and I fell in love. I guess we do have to talk a little bit about what an endurance runner is but I’m not here for distance shaming. I think we can all agree that a 10k doesn’t quite qualify but a half marathon probably does. So I guess the line is somewhere in there. If you think you’re an endurance runner than that’s cool with me. And this stuff extends all the way up to those ultra runners. (We all bow down before you.) But once you cross over the line it makes you a different sort of runner. Some of that is for the better and some of it is worse but it changes a lady (or whomever)! If you’re thinking about your next post-lockdown race season and thinking about becoming an endurance runner you might be in for a few changes.

Side note: You might have noticed that I’ve deviated a bit from the regular schedule lately, don’t worry that’s not a forever thing. It’s not because we’re crazy busy, anything happened or really any good reason at all. I’m not taking a break exactly but… we did start watching sons of anarchy lately and OMG is it addictive. We might be late to the party but has anyone else thought these guys should just give up and sell shoes?

We have achieved at least the rank of captain in life organization

Lots of people hear about how much you run and think you have all sorts of spare time to laze around but you choose to spend that time running. That could be the case but in my experience it’s usually not. Most of us have just as much stuff we ‘have to’ do in a day as everyone else. Actually some of the busiest people I know are regularly running super long endurance events. We almost all have jobs, school and errands to do that take up part of our life. We might also have families and parents that require care. Often we do most of the house work in our homes or cook dinner everyday too. Some crazy people even run utras, have big full time jobs and twins!

We don’t do this because we’re bored but doing it means we almost never are. We have to schedule every moment of every day especially in heavy training weeks. I’m not saying having a to do list but like breaking your home, job, life and running stuff down into 15 minute increments, possibly for weeks at a time. When stuff doesn’t fit you have two choices pre-dawn or at the very end of the day when you’d rather be sleeping. Most of us also won’t skip important (or not that important) things because our training guilt makes us feel terrible. That means we’re often watching soccer practice and having a sit down dinner every night and running 14 k on a Tuesday. So the distance running we do basically makes us so good at scheduling we could actually be your life coach!

We can be new parent level tiered and still sort of function

I touched a bit on this in the last section but our many hours of training make us feel guilty sometimes. We often feel like we have to do it all since we are ‘choosing to do this’ to do this to ourselves. Even if we have amazing partners and a great support network we still feel guilty sometimes. Just running the amount we are is enough to make you exhausted. Add to that pre-dawn and post dark run hours and squeezing everything else in and we are just so tiered. But… since we did sort of get ourselves into this we do out best to hide it, sometimes it even works. An endurance runner getting onto peak week is spending at least 7 hours a week and 60 km running and it does take exactly the toll you would expect. 

It’s actually probably irritating to those around us that we won’t admit it and seemingly look to take even more on. But you have to understand we don’t want ‘out thing’ to interfere with your thing. So we might deny that we’re cranky, hungry and tiered all the time, even if we are. Sorry!

At some point we just don’t want to tell you how far we run

Most humans just never do what we do even though they are in fact built for it. There is a good chance that long distance running was our ancestor’s super hero skill. We love it, we’re passionate about it and chances are we’re going to keep doing it. But people’s reactions aren’t always that much fun or clever. It kinda feels like we’re bragging sometimes too. If as an endurance runner if we had a dollar for every time we heard stuff like this we could retire and run full time!

  • Why?
  • You’re crazy
  • I guess you can sell the car
  • I could never do that!
  • Shouldn’t you be (insert worthwhile activity) instead?

This isn’t really a big deal but we hear it all the time we know it’s coming before it even happens. We’d rather not fess up to how long our last run was and just say 3k instead and hear “is that it?”

We can love running and be so over it at the same time

Me and every endurance runner out there has lots and lots of times that they just don’t want to lace up and run. You can imagine if you’re running upwards of 100 km a week you’re not super excited about it every moment. You might not have warm fuzzy feelings about running 110 km the next week either. Sometimes those runs we’re dreading do turn out to be the best ones but sometimes they don’t. While we’re running we can be totally over it and swearing that after this race is done it’s only 5k’s from now on. For me I can get resentful that running is taking up all my time and mental energy for weeks at a time.

While all of these internal struggles going on we can even in those moments love running. We can love a bad run knowing a great one is just around the corner. We can hate that it steals a good portion of our summers but love the accomplishment of race day. If we had a relationship status for running it might say “it’s complicated”.

We also don’t want to admit how much we spend on sneakers

Etcetera, but let’s start there shall we? Running sneakers don’t really last all that long anywhere between 400-750 km which at first sounds reasonable but even at about 550 km (what mine usually last) that can be 10 weeks, maybe even less. These things aren’t cheap either if you can find a pair for $100 you’re doing great and you should probably buy them all or maybe tell your friends. You choose. Plus we have to run in the cold, the rain, the sun, the heat and all the in between times too which means our running wardrobe can cost more than our work wardrobe pretty easily. Plus if you like everything to match then you might as well remortgage. 

Add to that every once and a while there is some big innovation or someone tells you about something you absolutely have to have. A lot of things do last a really long time like the clothes we wear but some things we just chew through. Sneakers, sports bras, headphones, water bottles and socks are pretty much constant expenses. That all adds up! Even if you can easily afford it, it’s still a lot and we’d rather not be questioned about it or have to admit it.

Speed matters a lot less and less often for us

Endurance running and training is a tough long slog. As noted it really can make you tiered and exhausted. Many endurance runners just know that as their milage increases past a certain point every week will probably be slower than the last. That really freaked me out training for my first half but now I just expect it. Take heart though after that taper you will fly on race day! Many runners get hung up only on speed every single run, but endurance training even if you try all you can physically do is cover the distance some days. 

There’s also more of a finishing the race is an accomplishment culture surrounding endurance events. Last place isn’t a let down on marathon day. While I haven’t done one, I believe that for most runners, speed is almost let go of entirely. Unless you’re a pro the goal really is just to finish. In fact this is one of my top reasons for trying an endurance event, running can be so much more than just going faster!

We know about real dedication and setbacks

Lots of us have had some major setbacks in life. Things like failing out of school, the early death of a parent, a very serious health issue or declaring bankruptcy. The real big things that require you to dig yourself out of a hole. But then again a lot of us haven’t. Lot of us have lost a job we were leaving anyway, failed a test, lost a pet or been teased at school. Those things do really suck but they sort of do happen to everyone. Dedicated endurance runners however have this sort of sweet spot in between nailed down. Which is to say at one point (probably a lot more than once) have health with a serious injury. Coming back from those injuries and getting back to distance running is a heartbreaking, long term and tough process. It’s also a pretty good stand in for life too.

Running like we do means that we are very dedicated and trying really hard to succeed at something. Whatever that means for us. That might be a new distance or a PR in an old one. Sometimes after hundreds of miles run, days spent pounding the pavement in training it all goes south on race day. This can teach you A LOT about life if you’ve never suffered a setback and even if you have. Plus all that time alone gives you some perspective on life too. Just because we do get injured or have a bad race doesn’t mean we give up and that’s a powerful lesson to learn.

When did you realize that dialing up the distance was changing you as a runner or maybe even a person? For me it was when someone talked about 30 km being far away and I thought ‘I could probably run that!’ What’s the biggest way running longer has changed you? What do you think other people really don’t get about it? Leave it in the comments below.

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