3 Common Types of Runners

The 3 Runner Types: Do you know your type?



Runners can usually be divided into three general types — Speedsters, Endurance Monsters and Combo Runners – based on how they respond to training and racing. Think about your training and racing history and see which description sounds most like you.


The Speedster dominates his peers in any workout where the repeats are short and fast (15-minute race pace or faster which for many competitive runners is 2-mile to 5K race pace). Speed workouts and short races get the Speedster excited and leave him fatigued but not exhausted. Long runs, tempo runs, marathon training and longer races, however, take more out of the Speedster than a day of hard repetitions on the track. When comparing race results with his peers, the Speedster is often frustrated that he can perform so well at short races but as the distance increases, he gets left behind. I also find that the Speedster was usually an athlete who could sprint fast (like running to first base in baseball/softball), jump high (like in basketball or volleyball and/or was really good at dynamic activities like jumping rope.

Endurance Monsters

For the Endurance Monster, long runs, marathon training, tempo runs and any workout at long distance race paces are a breeze and usually invigorating. The more miles per week the better is a common mantra for the Endurance Monster and she finds that she can almost double her 5K personal record (PR) in a 10K and nearly double her half-marathon PR in her marathon. The Endurance Monster, however, finds it very difficult to get her legs to go fast. Short, fast training like speed workouts leave the Endurance Monster feeling deflated. Short races like 5Ks also leave her exhausted and sore. When younger, the Endurance Monster gravitated to events that were more about steady effort (think cycling, swimming or other “endurance” sports) rather than short, fast burst.

Combo Runners

The Combo Runner is the most common type of runner. He performs fairly well in all types of workout – short/fast and long/slow. The Combo Runner also performs equally well in races of 5K to the marathon, placing nearly the same compared to his peers in each distance. No runner is perfectly balanced, however, so even Combo Runners may find some subtle tendencies toward one type of workout or race. So you may be a Combo-Speedster or you may be a Combo-Endurance Monster. I find that 90% of runners are Combo Runners and if you are unsure of your type, start with Combo Runner training plans and as we learn more about your, it will become clear where your tendencies are.

What’s Your Type?

So, which one are you? By knowing whether you tend to be more of an Endurance Monster, a Speedster or a mix of both, you get an idea of your strengths and weaknesses as a runner. This is valuable because it does you no good to train like a Speedster if you’re an Endurance Monster, even if you’re getting ready for a speed-oriented event like a 5K. I’ll say it again: It does you no good to train like one type of runner if you are the complete opposite type.

What we need to do is set up your training to match your type. This doesn’t mean you won’t do some training in your weaker area, but it does mean that any workout that isn’t your strength needs special consideration in your training plan. Why? Because that workout will likely be a tougher workout than it may appear when just looking at it on the training plan. You will need to be mentally ready to challenge yourself even though your training partner may fly through the workout with no apparent effort or concern.

What you’ll learn as you use the McMillan training system is that we have to carefully mix training that is your strength, with training that is your weakness, to bring you to peak fitness as your goal race or racing season nears. I cannot emphasize enough that it’s the subtle manipulation of training plans that can take your fitness to an entirely new level, and knowing your type is vitally important for you.



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Written By Greg McMillan
Called “one of the best and smartest distance running coaches in America” by Runner’s World’s Amby Burfoot, Greg McMillan is renowned for his ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. While getting his graduate degree in Exercise Science he created the ever-popular McMillan Running Calculator – called “The Best Running Calculator” by Outside Magazine. A National Champion runner himself, Greg coaches runners from beginners to Boston Qualifiers (15,000+ and counting!) to Olympians.

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