Distance running, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica is any foot race that ranges from 3,000 meters to 42,195 kilometers (basic length for marathon). It includes sprints, middle distance, long distance, marathon, ultra running, and multiday running. Olympic events are held on track with length ranges between 5,000 to 10,000-metre races and marathons are held on roads. However, in the book Running, John A. Hawley qualified events from 800 to 5,000 m as 'middle distance' and events at 10,000 m or longer as 'distance' races. Races longer than 42.2 km are considered 'ultra-distance.'
The research paper Nature authored by Dr. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University and Dennis M. Bramble of the University of Utah, shows how distance running plays a significant step in the development of the human species. The ability for endurance or distance running originated two million years ago and believed as "instrumental in the evolution of the human body form.
Naturally, our species are talented endurance runners as evident in the fossils collected in Africa. The bones were primitive hunters who run animals to death even on a hot weather. “No other animals could run in distance even on a hot day than humans,” says Dr. Lieberman. He further wrote that “the fastest human can run an average of 10 meters for about 10 seconds.
“Running is the most elemental sport there is,” wrote John Jerome, author of the book The Elements of Effort. Humans are genetically programmed to run and incredibly good at it. But in modern times how could a person enhance his ability to run and pursue a sport? Jack Daniels coach and author of the book Daniel's Running Formula says, that "there are four key ingredients in distance running." These are inherent ability, motivation, opportunity and direction.
1.) Inherent or genetic ability is having a certain amount of potential starting from the time of your birth. It is having been born with a body that perfectly suits you to involve in sports. Physiologically, the body types of runners are similar to the designs of gymnasts and other players.
2.) Inherent ability is essential in developing one’s potential but it still up to the person to enrich this gift. As Daniels says, “it’s up to you to do what you will with your gifts.” Thus, enters the next ingredient: motivation. It is the use of your God-given talent. Motivation comes from within.
3.) Opportunity is being in a suited environment to develop your skills as runner. It is having the facilities, climate, equipment and the leeway to compete.
4.) Direction involves a coach, teacher or a training plan that can be followed by the runner. It is the ingredient that brings in either positive or negative influence. Distance running just like other sports needs guidance to improve one's skills and abilities. Coaching is a “never-ending search” for better ways to succeed. A good distance running coach produces "beneficial reactions to training, creates positive race results, and transforms an athlete as better runner.”
However, a good coach is not always recognized for fruitful results when the available talent is not high caliber. Coaches of distance running doesn't have all the answers on how best to train an athlete and no single system suits every runner equally well. Thus, the first three key ingredients in distance running are equally essential to achieve the best results.