Posted by: rachelanne229 | November 9, 2010

what it takes

this post was triggered by Unarunner’s note on dailymile today.  to quote part of it: “Fast for “you” is slow for me. Fast for me is backing up for someone else.”

i had been mulling the same thought around in my head for a week or so, trying to figure out what i really thought about it.  DM is without a doubt my favorite, and most-visited website.  it’s uplifting, and funny, and a good place to read about true grit.  on days when i work my ass off and the fruit of my  labor only results in an average 9:30 minute mile, i still get an onslaught of support from my DM peeps.

then i realized, i could be running 10:30 miles, and i would still get the same support.  the variable here is me– my heart, my willingness to push, to go fast.  it won’t matter to anyone else if i average 8 minute miles, but it will have made a huge difference to me.  at that speed, i’m doing work.  i can’t sustain it for much more than a couple miles (not in high school anymore!), and honestly, i don’t really like to.

there are levels of pain that come with running.  after i finished up the cross country season my senior year of high school, i told myself i would never need to race again, would never train to the point of that panicky-exhaustion feeling.  you know that terrifying feeling i’m talking about?  it feels like burning out on adrenaline, and for me, it’s exacerbated by competitive racing.  you’re two miles into a 5-mile race, and thinking, shit, how long can i hold this?

4 years ago i ran a 5-mi in south berwick, ME during the AWESOME strawberry festival.  it was hot, and fun, and early, and i won my age division (not that there were a lot of us 18 yr-olds willing to get up that early on a weekend!)  my avg. mile pace was 8:32, and that blows me away.  i did that?!

and if we get into full disclosure, i didn’t train as hard as i could have for my marathon.  sure, i had some good days where i really pushed, and as a result, felt like i was flying.  i put in the 17-, 18-, and 20-mile runs like Hal Higdon said.  i got up at 5 am sometimes, lowered my alcohol intake, and completed each and every workout on the schedule.  but for the majority of those workouts, i could’ve pushed harder.  don’t get me wrong– i worked– but i remember killing myself way more during high school and xc ski practices.  but unlike xc and ski practices, i looked forward to my training runs.  it wasn’t like high school where i would wake up in the morning with a ball of dread in my stomach because i knew i had 1200s after school, and they just hurt so bad!

i finished the marathon in 4:09:58.  i have very little doubt that if i had pushed harder during my training this summer, i could’ve broken 4 hours.  a part of me is frustrated that i didn’t, and another part of me is satisfied with what i accomplished.  it was my first marathon and i had no idea what the heck i was doing.  how to train, how to eat, how much to drink, what to wear.  i was training by feel, and was more interested in reaching that “comfortable hard” pace than the “burn some rubber and improve your splits” pace.

except for my 3- and 4-mile runs (those horrible, horrible distances), i enjoyed training.  my hour or two, or three+ of running gave my day more purpose, and as i settled into a rhythm, provided sanctum from whatever stresses were weighing on me.  i felt strong and capable.  five years ago, i would’ve looked at those runs and laughed at my weakness, told myself i wasn’t running hard enough.  but today i look back and forgive myself for not giving that training everything i had.  i gave it 90%.   i’m no world-class athlete, not even an age-class contender in any race these days.  it’s ok.  i give myself permission to enjoy.  running is about spirit– and if the joy is gone from running, or any other realm of life, what’s the point in killing yourself for something that’s reaping no spiritual rewards?

slow and steady, and sometimes fast, if i want.

this post was a little embarrassing for me to write, because i’ve always been about beating myself over the head until i’ve done my very best, in terms of school, sports, the flute, wrapping Christmas presents, whatever haha!  and to admit to myself that i haven’t been doing my best goes against what i’ve demanded of myself my whole life.  it feels a little weak, like a little bit of a cop-out.  but the sense of accomplishment i glean from those long, slow distances, from those runs of 15+ miles, is delicious.  it can’t compare to a quick 5K or 5-mile race for me.

so i made a trade-off, trying to optimize improvement with enjoyment.  as i read others’ workouts and times and distances, sometimes i get overwhelmed by their stats.  you race 26.2 7-min miles, are you for real?!  are you super-human?!  what sort of pain must you have been enduring?!  so much respect.  and then i read about the people who work hard to run 12-min miles, and i am no less inspired.  we are all out there, running our own races, but doing it together.  maybe i killed myself running an 8-min mile and you breezed through the same distance in 6 minutes. or you train with a high intensity to run a sub-3 hour marathon, and i putter along, doing my training runs diligently, but foregoing that constant high intensity to make more room for enjoyment.

does this make me less of a runner?  well, DOES IT?!  this question matters to me.  i know several people who would say yes.  so for you hardcore warriors, i’m sorry to sissy-fy your sport.  but i’ve been running for TWELVE years baby, and it’s my sport too, even if i go home happy with a 9:30 min mile.


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