Here we go again with the numbers. The frustration, the crying, the disappointment felt after a runner doesn’t break their own personal record during a race. Why do we always put so much pressure on ourselves? Isn’t life stressful enough that when we find a hobby or sport that we enjoy, we seem to put parameters on the outcome. Does this PR take away from the fun of the activity or does it challenge our inner ability to do better? It really comes down to personal preference.
It’s funny how when we talk to someone who completed a running race that the first thing we ask them is ‘how was your time’?
After I finished trail racing at college, I took to running long distance. Running a marathon was a far cry from running 5km on a trail. Even though my first marathon was over 20 years ago, I will never forget how great it felt to cross the finish line. There were so many people and the thought of running 42km was such an accomplishment. So much of an accomplishment that I strived to do more. It was one thing to run this distance but could I actually beat my time? As a personal trainer in my early years (my 20’s), I researched as much as I could and talked to many other long distance runners in the fitness profession to learn more on how to improve my time and how to train to get faster. Needless to say, I did both. But why was it so important to run faster? Back then, it was all about qualifying for the big one, the Boston Marathon. Even though I missed the cut by only two minutes (a lifetime for a runner), I was so disappointed. It’s funny, but I never did a full marathon after that again. It wasn’t because I didn’t think I could improve my time, but rather the time didn’t matter anymore.
After my last marathon, I started to get back into trail racing again. This time, the distances were less than that of a full marathon and it seemed at this time (late 20’s, early 30’s) that the trail racing circuit started to get more popular. I was back in my element again. Shorter distances, back in nature, less people on the course and it just felt right. More importantly, I didn’t care about my times for the first couple of years. I was just having so much fun being on the trails again, and the numbers didn’t matter.
Fast forward to the age of 40 and this is where the magic stopped. My last race was a 21km trail race (the first time I did a distance like that on a trail) and I finished strong and yes, in a good time. However, I didn’t know that this would be my last race for five years. I had to stop running for 1 ½ years due to a foot injury and when I thought I was back on my feet again starting to run short distances, the same injury occurred on the opposite foot. Why was this happening? Being off for such a long period of time, makes one reflect on how to change and do things differently.
Earlier this spring, in fact 5 years to the date of my last race, I stepped back on the trails again to complete a 25km trail race. I had this time in mind that I had to finish in. Somehow I had to prove to myself that I could come back stronger and faster after not racing or running long distance in five years. The biggest mistake I made was that I hadn’t even run on a trail since my last race even though I was running long distance on the roads. The two are not the same. Trail running is not the same as road running. After making a small mistake on the trail, it cost my dearly as I was out with a 3-month injury. Instead of stopping, I continued on, which made the injury worse. Again, I spent my time off thinking about why it was so important to finish a race within a certain time or even completing the race knowing that I was injured. Did I not learn my lesson?
I run a lot less now and take a few months off during the year from running completely to rest my body and do something different. I generally only run 3-4 times a week when training for a race, and during off-season it’s even less. The lack of running is not going to hinder my performance, let’s face it, I’m not a high-performance athlete so it really doesn’t make any sense to run day after day and risk an injury. Lessons learned.
Here we are, present day. I’m back running again and my next trail race is coming up in less than a week. I have endured so many setbacks and injuries that I just want to go out and run the race and have fun, just like I did several years ago. There were times when I thought I would never run again during my injuries. Hopefully this is a brand new start for me after chasing the numbers for 35 years.
Letting go of the numbers isn’t easy but in order for me to get back to where I once was several years ago, I will embrace the moment of the run, and not get caught up in the race.
My goal for this race, to HAVE FUN! I will let you know how it goes next week.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,