Hunger for Speed

Since 2009, my constant quest for a better marathon time has pushed me beyond limits and boundaries that I once thought impossible and unachievable. 

But of late, I am beginning to ask myself: When does this hunger for speed actually become an unhealthy obsession? Where do I draw the line?

There are certain golden rules in running. One of them is staying healthy and injury free. Too often we hear of many runners suffering setbacks because of injuries. And I for one, have my fair share of them too, ranging from plantar fasciitis, Archilles tendonitis to ITB Syndrome etc. 

One would argue that pain is a necessary part of growth. No pain no gain, so they say. But certain injuries can have long term repercussion. Are we ready to sacrifice that in the name of better marathon time? When does one accept his "limits"? 

If you are aiming for sub4 or sub3 in marathon, training requires you to push beyond your comfort zone. You know that you need to increase your weekly mileage. Do more tempo runs and interval speed training. All these are designed to improve your endurance, raise your lactate threshold and increase your VO2Max. All very well. But they come with a price too. Fatigue, very often, eventually sets in and this leads to the increase risk of injuries, if you do not heed the warning signs. 

I have learned to alternate my training with easy/hard days for fear of the effect of chronic fatigue and it's detrimental effect. But I must confess that there are simply days when you just feel extra motivated. Consequently, that "passion" nudges you to push yourself just that bit harder. You seek a better and faster 10km, 21km, 30km or even full marathon time. It's time trials after time trials. And this obsession with speed can seriously wear down the muscles, joints and ligaments. 

I went through that phase in July after coming close to 3 hours in the Gold Coast Marathon. Images of going sub3 played constantly in the mind. I was drawn to faster and faster work out. Yet my body was just trying to keep up with the mind. Eventually, a pulled muscle and flare up of plantar fasciitis forced me to slow down. I had to totally stop running for a fortnight. 

I knew in my mind what I ought to do. But the obsession or "passion" tells me to constantly push that boundary. i.e. If you can do 15km/hour, go for 16km/hour...It's like a tug of war. And there are days when I was never sure who would win. The rational side would appeal to your senses: You are in it for the long run! Take it slow! Just flow with the program! Be disciplined and be patient! Then there's that irrational and inexplicable "passion" that would come along and scrap all the plans, throw everything out of the window... and you just ended up doing an all out time trial!

The quest for speed has it's price. Even if you are ready to pay, one has to realize that there is really no "prize" at the end of it. Like all achievements, we can look back on it one day and tell our grand kids that we were once a sub 3 marathoner. It's all very dandy. But if they have to look at you then in your wheel chair or walking stick, you would have a very hard time convincing them that running is in fact good for them.  

Having that "unquenchable" obsession is one thing. But more importantly, I need the discipline to keep it in check. Or else, I may be heading towards self destruct.

I hope you do the same too. 


  1. I know what you mean, I often 'hear' this little voice in my head saying, 'damn Nick, that was fast, but you can go faster, give it a go, come on'. And more often than not, I'm ending up with god knows all kinds of injuries. I'm learning that I'm no longer the young 'boy' that I once was and this body needs to go easy if I'm planning to run forever and I'm happy to have a wife who constantly reminds me of my limits :D

    1. yes Nick. A strong heart still needs a clear head to guide it!

  2. Wow...very deep! Work has kept me away from running. Hope to be back training after a long long layoff even way before Boston.

    1. Khoo, u hv been busy :)
      Running can wait...compared to the more important things in life like MARRIAGE...;)
      2014 Boston. Do it again!?

  3. Thanks for the reminder to keep it all in perspective, especially as I leave to Climbathon. Running enriches life, but it is a poor first priority, with family, friends, and certainly our spiritual life way up above. Having said that, I really appreciate the support of my family and friends when I go to run a tough race. They make it all the more enjoyable. Oh yes, and injury free? Well, I hope so. I've been resting the whole week...bless you Francis for your good encouragement. Run strong!

    1. Debbie, yes, we certainly need to keep things in perspective. Though sometimes it is so tempting to do otherwise.
      Wish you the best in your Climbathon! Go conquer another milestone! You have what it takes!

  4. Hi Francis,
    One day when you have achieved sub-3 (and I strongly believe you would, very soon), would you happily stop there; or would you be eagerly continue your quest for sub-250, 240, 230......and so on?

    1. Wow, Kok Keon. Thanks for your faith in me. I seriously don't have the answer to that.

      But if it is going to take too much sacrifice to achieve that goal, I have to weigh my options and set my priorities straight. Then, achieving that 2:50 or below may not be realistic any more....

    2. Yes, I have to agree with you, Francis.
      Imagine someone when he just started his business, initially ambitious to earn 1 million. After he has achieved his target, he wants 2m, then 3m, 5m, 10m...... Some might view it as a positive motivation to pursue higher achievement in life, but others might worry about the prize one has to pay to achieve this goal......
      There is no simple answer of true or wrong. But at the end we still have to go back to the most important question:”where to draw a line?”


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