Finding a Mini Challenge in Each Run

Thank you so much to everyone for your kind words yesterday. The online running community is the best!

Last night I ran down to the beach for the first time in about a week.


I know I’ve said this before, but now that I have a goal time in mind for the Miami Half all of my runs feel like they have a purpose. This makes each one feel much more satisfying.

When I was only running for distance I would get a lot of gratification from reaching new long run milestones, but sometimes my short runs felt like busy work.

Now I feel like each run: short + easy, short + fast, easy + long… they all really mean something. I know each type was always important, but now I feel like their impact is tangible.

A short + easy run where I still have to “beat” a certain pace is nice. I mean, after all, an easy conversational pace for me could be 13:30/mile or 14:30/mile … but one of those paces is better characterized as lazy than truly easy. 

I saw this chart on Kristen’s blog yesterday and it really resonated with me.


I’ve basically always fallen on the left side of that chart when it comes to running.

I thought I was really motivated, but really I was motivated just enough to get the job done. That’s not a bad amount of motivation, but it wasn’t enough to really challenge myself.

I’m inching closer to the middle of the chart these days and it feels good. It makes short + easy runs feel engaging when they used to feel a bit boring.

The long run will always have my heart, but variety is the spice of life and these days I’m excited about finding a mini challenge in each run!

Do you prefer training for time or distance? 



  1. October 29, 2014 / 7:16 am

    I haven’t had a structured training plan to achieve X time (this year I would set goals, just as my overall fitness was improving). After NY, going to read Run Less Run Faster and see if I can fashion a good plan to meet some spring goals 🙂

    • October 29, 2014 / 12:49 pm

      You haven’t had a structured plan, but you have been increasing your pace steadily along the way! Once you start training for specific goals you’re going to blow your old PRs wayyyyy out of the water!

  2. October 29, 2014 / 8:21 am

    I always create a training plan, but life often gets in the way (or a sha-minjury) and I end up having to revise it!

  3. October 29, 2014 / 8:47 am

    I usually train too far on the right, and the I end up needing to cut back on my training and them I may fall too far to the left. Its tough to find that happy medium!!

    • October 29, 2014 / 12:51 pm

      It is really tough to find a happy medium, I think this must be especially true for those of you who are training for time goals in the marathon! I am so impressed by all of your hard work and dedication over the months it takes to increase distance and decrease time!

  4. October 29, 2014 / 9:38 am

    I’ve mostly trained for distance my whole running life, but once I’m healed I’m going to start speed work and training for time!

    • October 29, 2014 / 12:52 pm

      ME TOO! I’m excited about starting this new chapter in the ol’ running book!

      Let’s go get some big PRs in 2015!

  5. October 29, 2014 / 9:40 am

    I was just thinking about this yesterday… the time vs. distance thing! To MY body lately, they definitely don’t go hand in hand. I’m either focused on getting FASTER or building my mileage. I am actually looking to increase my mileage here a little over the winter…

    • October 29, 2014 / 12:53 pm

      I don’t think I could do both at the same time. I think my body would completely break down!

      Soooooooo does that mean that you are still thinking about signing up for another marathon?!!?!? 🙂

  6. October 29, 2014 / 10:00 am

    I only recently started training for time (this last cycle) and I enjoyed it. I am curious to try and go for some speed at shorter distances–maybe halfs or 10k. This is sounding like I will soon be falling off to the right….
    I find my distance decreases over the winter due to the conditions, and I would rather do some speed work on a treadmill, so we will see how it goes!

    • October 29, 2014 / 12:54 pm

      Does speedwork on the treadmill feel different to you at all? I’m not entirely sure how to explain what I mean by different except to say…. I get nervous about flying off the belt! When I do speedwork outside I feel in control, but on the treadmill I get so nervous!

  7. October 29, 2014 / 10:13 am

    I guess I like both for different reasons. I enjoy speed work but not for too long lol I was pretty consistent last winter and could maintain my faster pace for a 15K, not sure if my mojo will return this year. I do like to set some kind of goal during my long runs whether a few fast miles or picking a hilly route some kind of challenge is good for the mind.

    • October 29, 2014 / 12:57 pm

      I bet the cooler weather will bring your mojo right back!

      Before the marathon I don’t think I really recognized the important of speedwork. Like, I knew I wanted to get faster, but I didn’t really care about it too much. Now I can see how speedwork will help me in longer distances…. I NEVER want to take 7 hours to finish a marathon again. Ever.No way. It’s too long for 26 miles! If I’m going to be out there for over seven hours I need to be earning the title of ultramarathoner!

      • October 29, 2014 / 9:18 pm

        I like that attitude 🙂 You will do it!

  8. October 29, 2014 / 10:46 am

    I mix it up. When I am doing a long run its all about slow and long. I watch my mileage. When I am doing speedwork or hill training. I am not worried about distance but make sure to run for a certain amount of time. Now because I am anal about things I do plan to have an approximate amount of mileage when I am watching time but am never upset if I don’t meet that “goal”. It’s cool that you found something to look at and relate too. Sometimes its hard to see where you actually are vs. where you want to be and what will get you there!!

    • October 29, 2014 / 12:58 pm

      So true, Staci! I love that you can balance the different types of runs so easily within the same training cycle. I don’t think I would be very good at training for a new long distance while focusing on getting faster at the same time. I think I’ll always need to have one primary focus!

  9. October 29, 2014 / 10:56 am

    I’m so glad that you were able to gain something from the chart. It definitely helps me to visually see where I am at when it comes to stress and performance. I would have to say that when I first started running, I was focused more on distance than speed. Once I started hitting my distance goals and was able to do so over and over again, I decided that speed would be the next step. Now I primarily train for speed and control over my pacing. Unless I decided to so some kind of ultra (which likely will not happen) the distances I have done are very attainable.

    • October 29, 2014 / 1:00 pm

      This is exactly how I feel my journey has been / will be laid out. I don’t think I could focus on reaching new distances while also trying to run them at a certain pace!

  10. October 29, 2014 / 2:51 pm

    Girl you know I’m ALL about running for time! Without time goals, I just don’t feel challenged enough. I need the challenge and the goals to keep me motivated. Otherwise, I don’t know what would get me out the door some days!

    Somehow I’ve always managed to stay mostly in the middle of the chart. I do veer to the right sometimes, but I always manage to check myself and remind myself of the ultimate mantra: “running is something you do, it’s not who you are.” Perspective is everything!

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:49 pm

      Hanna, I have been seriously so impressed with how you handle training. I can hardly believe you’ve been at it for such a short period of time because you balance your speed + endurance training like a pro!

  11. October 29, 2014 / 3:32 pm

    These days my ribs are based on that exact diagram. I no longer gauge my run on time, it’s all about effort. I drive the wife crazy because she will ask how my run went abd I tell her “prefect, it was moderate effort” lol what does that mean?!?! But recovery days are light effort and hard day’s are high effort so it seems to be working much better.

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:50 pm

      That’s really interesting! So you don’t set out with a specific pace or distance in mind you just go *completely* by feel? I don’t think I am disciplined enough for that!

  12. October 29, 2014 / 4:27 pm

    I think this is so important. I’ve been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book on marathon nutrition, but he also talks some about training in it. He writes about the importance of varying efforts and getting a good balance of moderate effort runs and some high-intensity runs. I’m definitely guilty of running way too many of my runs at the same moderate effort pace and not thinking about what the goal is for each specific run. Like you said, some are short & fast, others are short & easy, others are for building endurance, etc. and they vary for a reason. The variety really helps training. I need to remind myself of this!

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:52 pm

      I have really found that if I think about the purpose of a specific run and how it will help me achieve my short and long term goals it really makes the run feel much more worthwhile. Not that I don’t love almost every run, but sometimes I might want to do 4 miles instead of 5 or something like that, and I just remind myself going the extra mile at X pace will help because of Y!

  13. October 29, 2014 / 7:55 pm

    I referenced this bell curve in class today when discussing stress with my students. It’s so very true, and you’re right…part of running is that we LOVE it but that means we sometimes don’t let it get uncomfortable. We have to push ourselves if we want to improve!

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:53 pm

      Exactly! I know it’s really important to take easy days easy, and I’m all about that, but I think I was taking them a bit too easy for the last few months! By pushing myself just a little bit I am able to challenge myself and set more exciting goals!

  14. October 29, 2014 / 7:59 pm

    I think I’m like you in that I tend to be on the left side and, like you, motivated to get it done so I can check off my workout for the day but not truly challenge myself. But I’m not going to really get better until I do!

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:54 pm

      Exactly! I love running, I hope that this post didn’t come across as if I don’t, but I’m really passionate about the long run and sometimes I view shorter runs as something to just check off the list. By setting mini challenges for myself I am able to view shorter runs with a renewed sense of purpose! I hope you are too!

  15. October 29, 2014 / 8:21 pm

    Recently, I’ve been measuring my runs based on effort, not time nor distance and I find that it’s really helping! When I first started running I 100% measured my success via distance and whilst I think that’s a reasonable marker of progress, there are so many more elements to running than the miles you log! Ultimately, If I’ve felt great during a run, it’s a success 🙂

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:56 pm

      I love that last bit of your comment, so TRUE! A good run is one where you just feeeeeel good no matter what the other variables are!

      So interesting that you run based on effort instead of a set time or distance. I’m not sure i have the discipline to do that… plus I love structure 🙂

  16. October 29, 2014 / 8:54 pm

    I have both time training runs and distance training runs. I typically only run 3 times a week. During the week I do a “duration” run where I run my intervals for a specific number of minutes. During the weekend I do one LR for a specific distance. The goal is to eventually start increasing the duration of the mid-week runs as I get stronger.

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:57 pm

      I think I’m with you, LeAnne. I usually have one dedicated speedwork day and then a couple of moderate and easy runs during the week along with a long run. In the past I’ve had trouble getting excited about the short moderate/easy runs because I was really sandbagging them!

  17. October 29, 2014 / 9:33 pm

    I rarely follow a training plan.
    The plan that I used for Hunter last spring for his half was based on running for a set time instead of distance. That worked really well for him!!

    • October 29, 2014 / 11:58 pm

      I have been thinking more and more about the concept of running for a specific amount of time instead of distance. I think I’d like to try that at some point in the near future! I remember it really worked for Hunter!