It’s one of the biggest dilemma of every runner: is better run slow for a long distance or make a short workout focused on the speed? (Spoiler: for me neither of the two!)
The human brain is able to manage the time and the distance, but does so in different ways.
For a runner, they are undoubtedly most simple the workouts in which the measure to be considered is the distance: when the finish line is tangible and perceptible, it becomes easier to manage and optimize the effort.
If the unit of measurement is the time, the references are minor and the effort management is more difficult.
Running by time should be useful to identify the pace that you are able to sustain in a given time period: having only time as a reference, we tend to “listen” your body, capturing with more sensitivity the signals that it sends.
Instead, running for the distance is useful to focus on the race pace and, thanks to more precise references, figure out if you need to go faster or you can slow down and better manage the effort.
I definitely prefer the long distances, but in a different perspective.
For my point of view the workouts are always an opportunity to meditate and put in order thoughts, and a workout on the distance of a half marathon, run with a quiet and relaxed pace helps undoubtedly the concentration.
So, no agonism, no time, no peace, no workout plans: just wear a pair of shoes and run as you want and as long as you need it.
Running is my zazen. It’s my meditation, my peaceful routine, my inner sanctum.
In Zen Buddhism, zazen (which literally means “seated meditation”) is the central focus of the practice. Depending on the school of Zen, zazen is used to concentrate on koans or to just sit and be present, experiencing things in the moment.
I actually use running for two purposes:
Concentration. During this time, I try to focus on my breathing, on my feet as they strike the ground, on how my body feels, on the sights and sounds and smells of nature around me, and on my thoughts as they occur. I try not to think about the past and the future, but try to remain in the moment. This is difficult, and requires a lot of concentration and energy.
Contemplation. This is actually much easier — I just use running as a quiet time, to think about my life, about my writing (including this very post, which was composed in my head while I was running), about what is important to me.