Just the other day I was running with someone who seemed certain that she would not be able to become a faster runner. She stated that she had been running since she was 12 and was always pushing herself towards improvement. She made sure to note that her running form was top-notch (especially in comparison to whatever I was doing to propel myself forward). It didn’t make sense to her that I could actually run as fast as I do.
Well, I will tell you that the speed does not happen overnight. I remember the days when I ran 12-minute miles and I thought that was difficult. Then I slowly improved my pace (yes, even as I aged!). Actually, when I started the Team in Training season last fall I was content with running 10-minute miles. And there are times when a 10-minute mile is better than a 7-minute mile… like when you have to maintain that pace for 26.2 miles. However, I basked in glory on those shorter distance days when I was able to run an 8:30. After I finished the marathon, I became speed hungry. Speed became my focus. Afterall, I wanted to become faster than my husband. Somehow I pushed harder than I have ever pushed before. I ran with the fast crew and I sprinted up and down bridges. I nearly made myself throw up half the time. Yet, it was fun at the same time that is was challenging. I nearly doubled over with pride when I realized I had managed to get a mile down to 7:30. But to stay there, I really had to work at it. Additionally, I knew that just a few quality running sessions each week was better than trying to quantify the miles. My muscles just work better when they have a chance to repair themselves.
I’m sure I could still run faster, but I don’t feel the need to. I am happy where I am at right now. Some of you believe that it just isn’t possible to get your body to move any faster. Well, based on my own experiences, it is possible but you have to really want it and you have to really work for it. The same goes for running longer distances. Somehow over the past year I have managed to make the impossible seem possible. A positive attitude is the only way to achieve this along with proper training and nutrition.
However, I will say that most of us are at a disadvantage in one way or another. Some of us have more hurdles to jump over than others. Most of us know that males typically run faster than females (with the exception of my husband) or at least they have the capability to do so and it seems to happen with less training. Additionally, there are other factors besides gender. I have recently been reading The Runner’s Body by Dr. Tucker & Dr. Dugas and came across a list of factors that contribute to a better running economy. These include: “smaller than normal stature” (not much hope for tall folks), “long-limbed and lean” (so I am guessing a small torso with long limbs… kind of makes me think of an ape), “low body fat” (yet, it also states that too low isn’t good either), “smaller calves” (don’t get too beefy), and “a narrow pelvis and smaller feet” (that blows my size 11 feet right out the window). Most of the factors can’t be helped because you are born with what you got. Other factors you might be able to work on: “lightweight, but well cushioned” shoes, a stride length that is “freely chosen” and it goes on to state that “artificially changing yours will reduce the economy of movement” (ha!), and “the less vertical movement, the better” (oops, I guess I shouldn’t be swinging my arms so much). So, this basically states that there are some things you just can’t physically improve, but there are a few areas where it might help.
However, that’s only part of it. Proper training and nutrition are another story for another time. The moral of this: Don’t fret if you struggle (especially if you don’t match the criteria listed above), but remember that struggling is what you need to do in order to get ahead. I may think that a 12-minute mile is easy now, but it took me a long time and a lot of dedication to get here. Now, if you asked me to get on a bike, I would probably fall over before I even got it in motion.