Jul 28 2012
Knowing what type of runner you are is vital information you need to run well. Why? You can’t really train appropriately without knowing this information. I guarantee, there are a plethora of “distance” runners out there running marathons that have been given a plan and trained as marathon runners when they are really mid-distance specialists, or even sprinters. So what is wrong with training like a marathoner distance runner when you are running a marathon, you might ask? Not a thing! If you want to run marathons, then marathons it is. But… you need to train for how your body is built, as it has it’s own unique way of responding to training. Some athletes find they respond well to developing a higher mileage base + several long runs and adding intervals later (typical training style). Others find that they are built more for mid-distance and can include only one long run a week for marathon race mileage but utilize interval and short and medium runs for optimal training. And some can even include a little true speed work while maintaining, while keeping their slow twitch “muscles” fresh for a later week run. Your body will typically let you know what it prefers, when training for all distances. You can try a new training plan and see how you respond to the new training or here are some tips to figure out if you are on track already.
Ways to determine if you are really a sprinter or mid distance runner in disguise:
1. The obvious. You participated in more short sprinting sports in your early years. If you enjoyed the sprints in track, quick jumping and sprinting in basketball and the stop and start of tennis, then you are probably more of a sprinter-type. If you loathed those early season get in shape runs in soccer, you fall in this category as well.
2. If you can run a 200 meter in under 30 seconds for the average women (with training) and under 24-25 seconds for a guy, you are likely more of a sprinter. You might also fall into the elite mid-distance category if you can do the above consistently in interval workouts.
3. If you’ve trained hard and you can run a 5K under 20 minutes for females and 17 minutes for a male, you likely would excel at mid-distance. Although, you may have the genetics to train for and run a decent marathon also and perform well in both areas too.
Don’t despair if you don’t fit neatly into any one category. Fast and slow twitch fiber make-up vary greatly in each individual. (Olympic sprinters have been shown to possess about 80 percent fast twitch fibers, while those who excel in marathons tend to have 80 percent slow twitch fibers) but any combination can be present. I have coached runners that have excelled in both sprints and mid-distance in running and even seen athletes excel at two different sports, such as long distance swimming and sprinting on the track. And even siblings (and twins) can vary quite a bit in their best performance events. (I’ve seen a state champion twin duo shot putter and 400 m runner). This is because even with similar genetic make-up, we all have our own unique combination. This is actually a plus for you! So enjoy and make sure you have a coach that understands your unique running abilities and can write a training plan that is truly specialized for your abilities!
McArdle, W.D., Katch, F.I. & Katch,V.L. (1996). Exercise physiology : Energy, nutrition and human performance