Let me say up front to anyone reading this that whether you are a top level competitor or purely a fitness runner, you have my respect if you make any legitimate effort to get in shape. I find that most of my fellow runners have the same view but there are some elitists out there that truly believe that anyone can become an excellent runner if they train properly for several years. Unfortunately, this group is concentrated among high school and college students, where the greatest opportunity to compete exists. Without going into the specifics, let's just say that I experienced this ugly side when my health deteriorated and a recent thread on Runner's World Online brought back some of those bad memories. Some idiot posted a message stating that anyone who trained properly for several years can run a mile well under 5 minutes and if you're over 5:00, then "you suck" and "you're a pansy." Those were the words. I don't kid myself. I never would have earned a D-I scholarship even if every chemical in my body was precisely in balance but I do have the talent to be a pretty good runner when healthy. However, I'd have to be blind not to realize that not everyone has the same potential.
One member of my high school team came in mildly overweight, had bad asthma and about the worst form I had ever seen. When he started out, he was awful and most of the girls team could beat him. A lot of the guys made fun of him but he stuck it out and dropped from well over 7:00 to the 5:30s by his senior year. In cross-country, he actually was good enough to run Varsity a couple of times. He got everything he could out of his limited talent but there was no way that he was even getting close to 5:00 no matter how hard he trained. I’m almost 30 years old so why do I care about what high school kids say? I care because there are a lot of insecure teenagers out there that are not very talented athletes but would like to join a team so they give it a shot in track or cross-country. They lag behind in the early workouts then quickly give up when some of the top runners treat them like snot instead of encouraging them to stick with it. The insecure teenager misses out on potential friendships and is unlikely to realize any benefit from running at that time or later in life. Later, a coach posted a message stating that his experience lends no support to the claim that if you can’t break 5:00, then you’re a “pansy.”
First, not everyone has the basic speed. If you can’t run a quarter mile in less than 65 seconds, you will not be able to maintain a sub-75 second pace for all 4 quarters. Just make up for your lack of speed by training harder, right? Wrong. Not everybody has the same capacity for workouts. Some elite athletes can build up to 50+ miles per week in a fairly short amount of time while it takes others years to build up to 30 and experience more pain as a result of it. In my case, my connective tissues did not heal properly as my hyperthyroid/adrenal condition worsened. Sometimes, it took 2 full days of rest to recover from a tempo run. If I was foolish enough to run through the extreme soreness, I would end up limping. Later, someone posted that you cannot expect someone with some sort of disease to run under 5:00. True, but not all diseases are apparent on the surface. Analytical Research Labs stated that upwards of 60% of adults have thyroid/adrenal imbalances that are significant enough to produce at least mild symptoms. Hypo is more common than hyper. For reasons discussed in my main website (http://jzehnder208.googlepages.com/) in the Flaws of Traditional Medicine, most don’t know it because they have never had the proper medical tests. In the early stages of adrenal fatigue, a person might only lose 5-10% of their energy. Such a loss is unlikely to be even noticeable in a person leading a sedentary lifestyle especially if it comes on gradually and after the age of 30. The energy loss is simply accepted as a part of the aging process. However, for a competitive athlete, a 10% energy loss is huge. A 4:50-something miler who operates at 90% will look normal to his peers and be able to do most of the team workouts but will not be able to break 5:20 in a race. He will go from being one of the better runners to being relegated to Junior Varsity. In many cases, he will become discouraged and quit or try to stick it out and be considered lazy by his ignorant teammates. As you can tell, I am passionate about this and would like to work in the field of alternative medicine. I want to work more closely with athletes who tend to be more motivated to follow the program because they have more to gain by being healthy. What’s the point of this rant? If you are reading this and you are one of the slowest on your team or an adult who is training fairly hard just to break 30:00 for 5K, you have my full support. Don’t give up. You can improve significantly.