Ask Titanium: Endurance or Speed?

For this weekend’s edition of Ask Titanium, I got three questions on whether one should go for speed or for endurance when one is starting out with running. Truth? I never really thought about this because I’ve always been an advocate of long runs and ultra distances and it is why I am doing my best to train, qualify and prepare for ultramarathons. But since someone asked about it — it got me into thinking. What should a newbie runner be gunning for? More speed? More endurance? Can it be both? There are several things to consider but let me throw back the question and answer it:

The BDM Road by Titanium Runner and The Running Ninja at the far end of the picture

One — Are you a speed demon or someone who enjoys running slowly? Some people just love to jog along with a friend and like to have a decent conversation while running. Others enjoy the run alone with the road being their greatest companion that ever existed and much like people — the roads of life that we tread differ. There are roads that are paved, there are roads full of potholes and then there are off the beaten paths like mountain trails.

Two — What is your primary goal in running? [see 31 Days to Running — http://titaniumrunner.net/2010/03/31-days-to-running-day-1-have-a-goal/] What is your goal in running? To lose weight? Or to become the fittest person that ever lived? One can lose more by running faster. But if you are starting off with a heavy frame like 50 lbs way above your normal weight, it will get ugly running fast without injuring yourself and your knees.

Three — How long have you been running? Why is this question relevant? Depending on how long you have consistently been running, it would really affect your overall performance. There are runners who reach a plateau because of the lack of variety in their running program. One needs short runs, long runs and fast runs also called tempo runs in order to build speed AND endurance.

Four — Are you following a running program? Or you just go for a run because of free time?

After answering these questions, my stance for newbie runners is the following:

  1. Go for endurance first before speed. Build up your endurance up. For instance, if you can’t sustain five minutes of continous running then target to sustain up to thirty minutes. One you’ve done that, let’s talk about interval training and how to add speed into your training.
  2. Go for speed training to build endurance. This is for those who are planning to do their first half marathon or full marathon. It’s important to build speed too, because there are different muscle groups being exercised when running slow and running fast. We all need to train all the different muscle groups.
  3. Go for both after a six months or a year of regular running. Whether you be a speed demon or an endurance athlete, you will need both in order to continue to reach your potential. There’s a profound sense of peace that I feel whenever I run long and slow and there’s a deep sense of joy when I run fast. I remember what Eric Lidell in the movie Chariots of Fire said — “God made me for a purpose. But I also know that he made me fast! I feel His pleasure when I run.”

Next week: How do you build endurance?

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