My secret’s out: as a writer, I reflect. I’ve done this since I was a pup, probably the gangly, slobbery, falling-over-my-own-feet stage. I think about things that, after a week, most people would have forgotten about. I dwell on kernels of ideas that strike chords in my little brain. I twist and turn it around in my head until I find a miniscule crack that, if worried enough, opens to reveal truths that have eluded me in the past.
Thus, I’ve spent the past week reflecting on my first Half Marathon, the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins on May 3, 2009. I’ve come away with a few realizations. Obviously I can’t just list them; here’s the story:
When I first started training for this race I based my expected time off of my friend’s race time at a Half-Marathon in Arizona earlier this year; she finished with a 1:27:something. That calculated to roughly 6:30/mile. Back in February I figured that since we run together on Saturdays and I never get left behind that I should be able to do the same thing.
Note here that many people do this; we look at a friend’s accomplishments and assume that we have the same ability. The key word here is ASSUME.
As my training progressed and I did more tempo runs and long runs I noticed my times. A pattern emerged; I was doing 8:00/miles consistently, with some miles in the 7:00 minute range and some closer to 8:30/mile. Given the fact that I have no desire whatsoever to go out so hard that I’m puking my guts out or land in the E.R. with severe dehydration, I figured I could probably run eight minute miles over a long distance. Final analysis: Based on doing 8:00/mile I could expect to finish the race in an hour and forty five minutes.
Last week I had a great race. My body felt good, I didn’t feel like I pushed myself past all realistic limits, and afterwards I was tired but not totally wiped out. I had energy to go to my son’s flag football game in the afternoon and help out at their elementary school’s gardening day.
I finished the race in one hour, forty five minutes, and forty nine seconds, which means I ran an average of 8:04 per mile. Emotionally I am not so much happy, or proud of myself; rather, I am content to the very core. I trained for the race and examined my potential realistically. I saw myself as the athlete that I AM, not based on another person’s performance, athletic ability, or my own mocked-up version of who I should be. I did something that four years ago I couldn’t imagine ever doing, and I did it based on the person that I’ve grown into. During the race I didn’t let myself get pulled into running a pace that was unrealistic for me, and I enjoyed every minute of running on a beautiful spring morning in Colorado. There were no rose-colored glasses on this sweaty face.
A few days ago an acquaintance I know from my kids’ school asked me about my race.
Me: It was a lot of fun! It was such a beautiful day up there, perfect for running.
Her: I have a friend who was there, she qualified for Boston.
Me: Wow. Good for her. I didn’t have any illusions that I would qualify, I just wanted to see what I could do.
Her: Yeah. She races a lot. That’s the point of racing though, isn’t it? Why race if you’re not trying to get faster?
At this point I gracefully exited the conversation in favor of taking a wheel-barrow full of mulch for a ride. I respectfully disagree with her rhetorical question on so many levels. “Why race if you’re not trying to get faster?”
Why indeed? And this seems to be the million-dollar question. I race to push myself out of my comfort zone, to show myself that I can set a goal and get there, that I have the tenacity to follow through with things that might seem insurmountable, that I can create balance in my life, that I can see myself realistically and know what my boundaries are. That’s why I race. Running is a part of my life, but it’s not my WHOLE life. It’s an aspect that has taught me so much over the many months and seasons that I’ve cruised the streets and trails of Boulder County. Focus, determination, cross-training, balance, tenacity and rest; these are areas that I work on as an athlete and these same skills are slowly, incessantly, seeping into the rest of my life.
Holy cow, there’s hope for me yet!