In his book Lore of Running Tim Noakes explains that runners who are fast at short distances will very likely be fast at longer distances (assuming specific training is undertaken). It is therefore unrealistic to believe a runner can beat another at any endurance event if they cannot overcome them over distances from the mile up to the 10k. This is based on diminishing returns and fatigue resistance as the maximum pace a runner can maintain for longer will inevitably decrease (though not necessarily by a significant margin).
Although intuitive, it is not necessarily widely practiced by recreational road runners.
Noakes advises runners to focus on realising one’s potential at shorter distances before running further. This theory has been successfully applied by many elite athletes, including the Daniel Komen, Emil Zátopek, and ultramarathon legends Ann Trason and Yiannis Kouros. Also, well-established race time predictions are based on actual results for relatively short races.
Former top ultrarunner and now-experienced coach Norrie Williamson in his book Everyone’s Guide to Distance Running echoes Noakes’ advice. Every runner must accept that all distances are important because any errors in running form or mindset will increase in magnitude as the distance progresses.
Despite the logic, it is important to experiment to find a balance between speed and volume in training, and short- and long-term ambitions.
I feel it is time in my running career to embrace distances up to the mile, after many years of focusing on improving my half marathon and marathon performances. I expect that throughout my challenge I will reminisce on my high school track career.
The training and time trials will test me in new ways and my desire to be a sub 5-minute miler is strong, especially as I am tantalisingly close already…