Free wheeling. Trying to recall how long before I discovered I could run where I wanted as fast as I wanted to. After cross in 77' I decided to continue running through the winter. This is when I discovered it. So I have to believe if someone commited (wanted to run races and do reasonably well) to just start from scratch and spend two years running most days they may actually understand the basic reasons they are training a certain way.
In my world, for a 47 year old to run 25-30 miles a week last year for say 2 months after 10 weeks off and finish like 67th out of 3,000 runners at Al's indicates there are not many runners above who fit the discription in Greater Milwaukee. It is encouraging that so many people participate. I am not making a judgement other than it seems like a whole lot of people wish to finish much better in say the marathon, but are probably training less than 25-30 miles a week annually in training.
So I believe they commit to a higher standard for 12 – 18 weeks (yikes, maybe less) and wonder what the disconnect is. I am not gifted. It took me a year back in 97' to run 22 for a 5k and another year to break 20. That same year (98') I ran 1:29 for a 20k and was reasonably happy. I had the advantage of knowing that if I continued to slowly increase my weekly miles I would continue to improve. I think two years is a reasonable number before launching into a specific regiment (for novices).
At 42 (03') I ran 27:03 for an 8k and I was training for a 100K. It was pure mileage and some fast stuff. No taper. These are the principles I apply to those who ask me. You simply get faster by running more. I prefer to train for marathons and ultras, but I could still run reasonably well short off of that training. I haven't trained for anything short in 26 years. I dislike the pain those short races bring on. Probably more so for me because I don't do workouts that would enable me as well for those distances.
Today it seems the people who get it actually competed in HS or College. Not all, but a very high percentage. These people make the connection that the sky is the limit, only limited by how much you are willing to train. Even today, I harbour the mind set if I can get the training in I can beat about anyone. It may not be true, but my set belief system can't yet be changed. This is the driving force for many off us. It does not have to be true for me to believe it.