Who is the Better Runner?

A few weeks ago, John Stanton founder of the Running Room posted the following comment on Facebook, “Slow runners are the people responsible for making the fast runners look so fast ….. well done slow runners!”

The majority of the runners replying to the post took it tongue-in-cheek and enjoyed the comment, a few admitted to be slow runners and were offended.

I responded that I was impressed with the runners who run a marathon in over 4 hours as I have not had a training run last that long never mind a marathon. We are really only competing with ourselves. I’ve always been impressed with ultra-marathoners for the time they are out running. But someone running a 4 hour marathon or longer has my respect equally.

Since then I’ve had a few more thoughts on the subject, hence the title of this post, “Who is the Better Runner?”

At the front of the pack we have a naturally gifted 25 year male who runs 2h30m for the marathon, running up to 100 miles a week in training. He weighs 135 pounds.
At the back of the pack is a recreational runner who is a 55 year old male and runs a 5 hour marathon, running 50 miles a week in training. He weighs 175 pounds.

From early years in school, we are taught that the fastest is the best. We even reward it in all aspects of athletics and scholastic achievement. First place, Gold medal, highest mark, etc the list goes on. But if the playing field was evened out, what would happen? If we added a 40 pound vest to the 25 year old athlete and had him cut his mileage back to 50 miles a week. The vest would have to stay on for 24 hours per day for the training period. How far would he be able to run in a 5 hour period? Would he be able to complete the marathon or even survive the training period?

I realize that the above example does not really even out the playing field but use it only to illustrate a point. Which is, that maybe being the fastest is not the best. The older recreational runner who takes twice as long to run the race on half the training is probably working equally as hard (maybe even harder) than his younger counter part. Both runners are doing their best with their abilities and available time allotted to training. The younger runner a full time athlete compared to the older runner who has family and work commitments to schedule his training around. And really that’s all any runner can do, their best. On any given day, your result in a race depends on the effort you put into training. That’s all you can control. During a race there are so many conditions (weather is a good example) that you can’t control, but you run the race and do your best for that day.

So, who is the better runner? I leave it to you to answer but suggest that maybe it’s not the right question to ask.