By Christina | August 31, 2009
Every aspiring runner thinks the true test of achievement is having successfully run a marathon. Runners of all fitness levels and abilities run marathons for different reasons. Some want to check it off their “bucket list” as a feat to accomplish before they die. Some want to lose weight and think that training for a marathon is the answer. Unfortunately, this is a myth. People can and sometimes do actually gain weight while training for a marathon because all of the running makes them hungrier and causes them to eat excess calories. Some runners run a marathon with the only goal being completion whereas other runners want to run the race as fast as they can to qualify for other more prestigious marathons.
No matter what your reason is for running a marathon, it is a great experience and worth the grueling training. That said, not every runner is a marathon runner. If you want to better your times and become a more accomplished runner, it is important to know what kind of runner you naturally are. There are three kinds of runners. Sprinters are fast for short distance races like 5ks. Mid-distance runners can hold a fast marathon pace, not as fast as a sprint though, for 10ks and half-marathons. Endurance runners are the runners that are most suited for long distance running like marathons. They run at a slower pace, but can run long distances.
Anyone can become a runner with proper training. The question becomes are you training for runs that are best suited to the type of runner you are. Unfortunately, a large part of what kind of runner you are falls to genetics. The type of muscles you have, the ability of your body to withstand lactic acid build-up, and how much oxygen your heart pumps to your muscles all affect the kind of runner you are. Sprinters tend to have more fast twitch muscles, a low lactate threshold, and a higher VO2 max. The opposite is true for marathon runners.
Just because you are genetically programmed to be one type of runner versus another doesn’t mean without training you can’t become a different kind of runner. It just means that you might be a better, faster, stronger runner if you run races that are more in sync with your body’s natural make-up. For example, if you have trained your hardest to be a marathon runner and you have run several marathons at a mediocre pace, you might want to try sprints or middle distance races and see if you have faster finishing times. This is not to say you should never run a marathon if you are not an endurance runner or that you should never run a 5k if you are a marathon runner. Training for races that are outside your comfort zone is an excellent way to become faster in races that are more of your speciality.
Getting to know what kind of runner you are will help you tailor your training to specifically enhance your areas of strength and improve your areas of weakness. It will also provide you with an incentive to choose the races you run which will maximize your potential for success.