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The big divide: Running fast ... or running slow

Slow runners live longer than the fast ones conclude scientists from University of Copenhagen (UCPH). University Post met up with two student runners to hear their response

A pair of shoes, and an hour or a half to spare. That’s all it takes to be a runner and probably why it is such a popular form of exercise, also amongst students.

Now according to the so-called Copenhagen City Heart Study, also known as ‘Østerbroundersøgelsen’, running slowly or in a moderate pace is more beneficial to longevity than running fast. The study, which was conducted by Peter Schnohr among others from University of Copenhagen (UCPH), concludes that joggers who run lightly or moderately have a lower mortality than the faster ones.

So how do the conclusions from the UCPH study ‘Østerbroundersøgelsen’ affect people’s attitudes towards running? Two students talk about their personal styles of running and give their opinion.

Slow lives longer

Anne Astrup Madsen studies Political Science, and Peter Birch studies History. Apart from both being students at UCPH they have one thing in common: They are enthusiastic runners.

But their running styles are different. Anne prefers to run slowly, sauntering along, enjoy the fresh air and nature. Peter, on the other hand, likes to race, against others and himself and beat his own records.

If this was the only factor, Anne would likely live longer than Peter, according to the research.

Likes to beat himself

Peter has run half-marathons and marathons and he runs 5 kilometers in a tidy 20 minutes. “My motivation when I started running was that I would then be able to have some beers in the weekends and still feel healthy. I don’t run fast to live longer” says Peter.

“I like the feeling of being exhausted after having exercised. Then you feel like you have earned the right to relax or have a piece of cake or whatever. It’s about getting the most out of it once I’ve put on the running shoes”, says Peter.

If Peter’s motivation for running is to be able to slack a little on the healthy lifestyle in the weekends, why run fast then? Why doesn’t he just run in a moderate tempo, which is healthier in the long run?

“I like to beat my own records. When I’ve run a half marathon or a marathon, I want to do it faster the next time, and that’s what motivates me now. It gives me more when I run fast. I’m more beat afterwards. When I go running I might as well give all I’ve got so that I can really feel it afterwards instead of just plodding along,” says Peter.

See also the University Post article Scientists: 10 second sprints are most effective.

Rebels against speed

Anne has a different approach. She doesn’t care how fast she runs, she doesn’t time herself and she doesn’t push herself to the limit.

“I tried to do a half-marathon once, because I had been running quite a lot, but when the run got closer I started losing interest. It stopped being fun when I put focus on how fast and how long I could run. I didn’t like people’s mentality at the half-marathon – the way everyone was focused on their goals and their speed”.

Anne likes the focus that the UCPH research has put on slow runners.

“I was actually a little happy when I heard about the study. When people hear that I’m a runner their first reaction is usually to ask how far and how long I run. At some point this made me feel rebellious. Why is this what people ask? Why not: Did you have a nice run? Do you feel relaxed and refreshed?”

Finding the perfect balance

They have different goals when they tie their shoelaces, but both runners claim that their running is compatible with a balanced life.

Anne says that she runs “because of the exercise. I like to have a healthy lifestyle and for me, running is part of it. I don’t want to be extreme in anyway – I don’t want to be unhealthy but I don’t want to be a health-freak either. I want to be able to run all my life, so that running will be as big a part of my life when I’m 50 as it is now” says Anne.

Peter says he knows “that you can take it too far and push your body in ways that are not healthy”.

“But I’m not worried about myself. I think I have found a balance. I take care of myself, and if I’m tired I might indeed skip the run once in a while”.

Feel inspired? Try out Marte’s top 10 free outdoor workout spots in Copenhagen.

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