I read an article by Jen Van Allen in the October 2011 issue of Running Times Magazine. It was absolutely perfect in regards to what I’ve been feeling lately. The gist of it is, don’t lose the point of why you run and run for yourself, not for others.
When we begin to get faster and start receiving awards for our running achievements, sometimes perspective is lost. We want more. Then we begin to get scared because we have to work harder, time is not on our side with each added year, we begin to hear the expectations of others when we enter a race. That’s when we might push a bit too hard and the race is not fun.
I was terrified when I entered my first 5K over 8 years ago. I was also very lucky because I ran without pushing myself and got third in that very first race. Yes, I started later in life so I had an age group advantage, especially since I’ve always been active and healthy, free from injury. But I had never, EVER won anything athletically before. It was new to me and it felt great. What more could I do?!
Over the years I entered more races but still enjoyed the run while placing in the top 4 or 5 of my age group. I’m not sure when it hit, maybe that first marathon. I remember coach saying, “You came to me asking for a program so you could JUST finish 26.2 miles. Now you are setting time goals. Let’s keep the focus on simply completing your first marathon. You’ll do great.” I did do great. I qualified for Boston in my first marathon and I didn’t struggle, hit “the wall”, “bonk”, or any of those horrible scenarios others go through while struggling with marathon miles. It was fun and I wanted more, but I wanted faster.
I ran Boston six months later, only 23 seconds off from my first marathon. It was a little more difficult in the last 4 to 5 miles but nothing to really complain about. I still wanted MORE. Gosh! How would it feel to finish in the top 100 women?!
As I ran the races this year, 2011, I tried to PR every time and it finally bit me big time. I struggled through the last couple of half marathons basically back to the pace times I ran in my first half marathons. So now what? Now I’m going to do what Jen Van Allen has done and run just for fun. I won’t toss my bib or chip away like she did. But I won’t focus on my pace, my time, or being in the awards. I’m going to run for enjoyment.
I’m a middle of the road runner. I’m not elite status and I will never break a 3 hour marathon, darn it all, I probably won’t even break a 3:30 marathon but I will keep running towards the finish and be proud of my achievements. Proud that I can be out there running with the pack.
If you get the chance, read Jen’s story. I wish I could link to it, but couldn’t find the link other than the magazine site.
What’s your story? Do you still run for fun or are you beginning to set some time goals?
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