The Running Sweet Spot

I’ve run a lot of different race distances from 5K to 50K. Lately, I’ve thought a lot about what my favorite distance is… or rather, what my least favorite distances are. I’m currently in the frame of mind that longer isn’t necessarily better. Some might accuse me of being bitter after having a disappointing race at my last marathon (CIM) – and I think that there’s some truth to that. But the more I think about it, the more I realized that I’ve never really enjoyed running longer than 2.5 hours – either in training or during races. For me, that translates to about 15-16 miles on roads and 12-13 miles on trails. The one time I can actually remember having FUN while running longer than 2.5 hours was when I had a magical day at the Santa Rosa Marathon. Sure, I’ve had the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction following a 20-mile training run, but never joy or fun. Maybe I need to run more of them? I’m not sure I’m invested enough to try. When I think about why I don’t want to run another marathon in the foreseeable future, 3+ hour long runs are at the top of my list. Even when I’ve had company, even in decent conditions… I don’t know if it’s because I’m not fueling enough (2.5 hours seems like the point when you enter glycogen depletion) or if I just get bored. Or maybe physiologically, I’m not meant to be a marathoner.

When I think about the times I’ve been happiest running, it’s almost always between 6-10 miles. I should clarify: not 6 miles into a road 10K, but 6-10 miles into a half or full marathon. I’ve literally been giddy with joy as I cross the 10K mat numerous times, not knowing how hard I would bonk later in the race. I’ve also really enjoyed the 2 ten-miler races I’ve done. They didn’t hurt as much as a 10K but I still felt like I put forth enough effort to warrant a substantial breakfast as a reward. I’ve felt similarly after a tough trail 10K race. So, I guess my sweet spot is about 1-2 hours of running.

What about you? Do you have a sweet spot – either race distance, time on your feet, or weekly mileage?


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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7 comments on “The Running Sweet Spot
  1. Amy says:

    I used to think marathon, but after almost three years off, the thought of running that much doesn’t sound like fun. I think right now I’m all about the half marathon distance/training mileage.

    • Jen says:

      I agree – I think half marathon training and racing are pretty ideal. It’s just enough training to get in shape, but I don’t feel wrecked after training runs.

  2. bt says:

    Yup. Right with you on 1-2 hours of running, with the caveat that when you aren’t training hard, anything more than 30 minutes at a solid effort without having to stop feels amazing.

  3. gracechua31 says:

    For an average weekday run, an hour of running is perfect; for a weekend long run, maybe 2-2.5. It’s possible that this is a sweet spot for everyone! Faster runners will finish that 20-miler in 2.5 hours and hence enjoy marathon training more. I take 4…

    • Jen says:

      Yes, good point. I feel like one of the only times I ever wish I was faster was for midweek 10-milers and weekend 18+ mile long runs. It must be so much more efficient to be a faster runner.

  4. Angela says:

    Interesting…..I’ve never really thought about it this way before. I used to hate long runs, but it was because of a) the boredom, b) running it too fast, and c) not being in very good aerobic shape. My only issue with marathon training-type long runs is the amount of time it takes away from other things. Honestly I don’t think I ever think about the time length of a run at all now. Once I’ve picked a goal and x minutes are on my plan it’s just, well, this is what’s necessary today to get to the ultimate goal.

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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