Monday, 27 January 2014

Quality Vs Quantity - The Runner's Dilemma?

Quality versus quantity. Which do you choose?

In almost every walk of modern life the sophisticated, intelligent answer is always "quality".

I often sit through work meetings where people wheel out trite phrase such as "we should focus on the quality not the quantity" as if they have said something new and profound. And everyone in the meeting nods knowingly.

Who aspires to be the "bargain basement" piling them high and flogging them cheap? Everyone wants to be that "quality" product that everyone else admires, wants to be and buy.

My recent marathon training has caused me to question this accepted wisdom and I'm starting to think it's all about quantity.

On Saturday I ran 30km, on Friday I ran a fast timed 5km and the day before that I ran a half marathon in training. According to the running schedule I downloaded from a sports website I am meant to run between 70 and 80 kilometres every week between now and my marathon in April, some weeks I'm even meant to run over 90 kilometres. Mo Farah is famously meant to run 120 miles a week when in training.

A large part of distance running training is all about quantity.

Far from quality being in opposition to quantity, the latter is not achievable without the former. Quantity leads to quality. The more you do anything the better you become and the more likely you will be able to achieve the best quality.

Now I know what you're thinking; there's a difference between "training quantity" and "performance   quality".

In my experience the more half marathons I run in training as close to race conditions as possible the better my marathon times when I finally race for real. Also when I think about other examples in life quality seems to be predicated on quantity. Two of the greatest jazz musicians that ever lived; John Coltrane and Miles Davis were prolific in their output often producing several albums a year. I doubt they would have been able to create the masterpieces they created if they hadn't constantly been performing, recording and honing their skills. (The Spice Girls only ever recorded three albums - a cheap shot I know but I doubt anyone will be listening to 2 become 1 in forty years time the way they listen to Coltrane's Love Supreme today).

So next time I'm in a work meeting and I start hearing someone talking about doing "less but with greater impact" or "we want quality not quantity" I think I'll just start humming "Viva Forever" and ask them if they want to join me on a work-lunch run.

(The picture today is of just a few of John Coltrane's albums a clear example where quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive)

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