A few weeks ago I read an article where a professional runner said that come race day, they could tell if they were going to make their goal in the first mile. I wondered at that idea as I read it. Questioned if it were true, then wondered what it would be like to know your own body to such a degree.
I’ve been training with a running coach for about a year. When I was training for the North Face 50k last year I had a moment a few months prior to the race where I realized that I had no idea how to train myself for that kind of distance, so I enlisted her help. After successfully completing that race, I realized that I really liked working with her, so I kept her on.
After the ultra I decided to work on my real challenge, speed. I can run all day. I like to run long distances, but I can’t do any of it very quickly. Since last summer I’ve PRed a 10k, and unofficially, the 5k though I still need to do it in a timed race. I’ve run faster times consistently and hit my 10k PR time more than once during training runs. I have made progress, happily tracked by my trusty Garmin, so I can go back and see those times after a not so great run.
This weekend was my most recent PR attempt. I’ve been working very hard to PR the half marathon and beat a time I set in a race I ran last spring just for fun. In the first mile, I knew I wasn’t going to meet my goal that day. The article I read a few weeks ago popped into my head as I compared how I felt this past Saturday in the first mile of the Rock n’ Roll USA half as compared to how I felt in the Iron Girl half last April – I felt slow, I felt tired, I felt like I was already working hard in the first three miles. Something just felt off. During the Iron Girl race, I felt light, my feet felt like they were hardly working – I knew I was going to PR.
So I spent the Rock n’ Roll half toughing it out and finding joy where I could. We ran across my favorite bridge in DC which leads to the Women’s Military Service memorial. I paced off of a guy in a kilt for several miles. I appreciated the fact that I did not have to pee the whole race. I enjoyed the animal costumes (a cow beat me by at least 45 seconds). I appreciated the fact that I did not walk the whole race, not even through water stops, or up the hills miles 6-8, even though I wanted nothing more. I was not going to beat myself in this race, but I did not let the race beat me either.
I also had two free hours during the race to think about running. To think about why I love it even when I don’t. As I was pondering my relationship to running I passed a man holding a sign that said “Run with Gratitude” and that pretty much summed up the thoughts swirling around in my head. When I am running, the gratitude comes without me even trying to be grateful or think about being grateful. With every, often slow step, I know that it is a gift just to be able to do it. To be physically capable of running, of propelling myself forward under my own power.
This race gave me a new respect for the distance. I’ve gone farther, but that doesn’t make 13.1 miles any less difficult. It gave me a new respect too, for my fellow runners. You never know what a distance means to someone. What they’ve overcome to get to the finish line. A 5k can mean more to one person than 50 miles means to another. I think this is something that I’ve lost sight of over time, believing that running further means more in general, and that is simply a fallacy.
I am reminded as I propel myself down stairs, hovering one foot over the step below me and then pitching myself forward, hoping I land on the step below, or decide to just stand for a bit instead of sitting because my quads are still sore from missing my goal, that sometimes the best thing for you is to be humbled by something you thought would be easy.