Short sprint – Non-endurance?

Pandemic over, a friend posted he’d taken part in his “first non-endurance race” in two years. I was stunned. This is someone who coaches and, as one of the faster runners, has others looking up to him.

My shock was because his race was a five miler and he’d taken over thirty minutes. That’s an event of endurance. Somewhere around 95% of the energy comes from aerobic sources. If you’re of a metric disposition, it’s a touch over 8K; lying somewhere between the 5K parkrun and 10K races.

I’m sure he referred to it as an event of non-endurance because it’s not a half-marathon or marathon which require a higher volume of training miles. I guess it’s partly because he’s regularly capable of running five or six miles in a training session that he thinks there’s no endurance involved.

But it reveals a huge misconception that many runners make because they don’t understand how important endurance is in distance racing. And by publicising his five mile race as non-endurance, he wasn’t pointing anyone to the correct ways to train.


Parkrun is an event of endurance but many think the fast pace of front runners is created by speed training. And to an extent it is. You have to be capable of running at five minutes per mile pace if you’re going to run a parkrun in sixteen minutes. You need some speed training to cover ground quickly.

But speed can only be sustained for 1-2 minutes before you begin to huff and puff. Running a bit slower than top end speed will allow you to last longer but it doesn’t actually build the body’s endurance mechanisms. I’m not going to go into the best ways to build endurance, but I guarantee running fast, gasping for breath and hoping to hang onto it is not the way to do it.

Deliberately building endurance is the key reason why so many people who’ve spent six months training for a marathon are stunned when they return to parkrun and run a PB. They can’t figure out how they can be faster through only doing slower miles.

But, for as long as people think of parkrun or the 10K as “non-endurance” it’s going to be impossible to reach their potential. By process of elimination, if they think of these distances as “non-endurance” then they will train for speed to get faster at them. It simply doesn’t work.

The closest events get to being “non-endurance” are the sprints (100m – 400m) which are trained for by concentrating on speed. Even then their coaches talk about speed endurance. Any event beyond the sprints, starting from the 800m, has a large aerobic component that is improved by working on endurance.

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