Our Toughest Competitor.

I’ve said it before. I’m not fast. I’ve gotten faster over the years. Even so, my half marathon PR is less than a minute under 2 hours, and my 10K PR is over 50 minutes.

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So I find it at times perplexing, at least initially, when I see people talk about being disappointed by far faster paces at a race. Granted, some of them have a shot at winning a local race or placing in their age group.

But then I also think of times that we’ve posted some of our times and a friend occasionally replying, “Wow I can’t imagine running that fast that long.”

It highlights a key feature of running. Most of us aren’t competing with other people. We’re competing with ourselves—both our past performances & our expectations.

The disappointing days aren’t necessarily the ones that are our slowest or feel the hardest. The disappointing days are ones we feel prepared and then crash and burn. When we’ve been busting ass but then can’t seem to stay on pace. The times we bite off more than we can really chew without understanding that until its too late.

Sometimes there are logical reasons for the slow down or crappy feeling. Heat and humidity (sympathies to our friends who’ve been dealing with that of late!). Not enough (or the right kind of) food during a busy day at work. Recovering from injury or illness. High levels of stress. Even a series of workouts that’s challenged our fitness.

But sometimes none of that matters. The disappointment comes from not living up to the image in our heads, one that we maybe didn’t even realize we had.

It can be really difficult to let go of expectations. A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to go on a Run Wild trail running retreat in Iceland, a special birthday present from Gene. The retreat leader, Elinor Fish, introduced us to the concept of mindful running. It’s about sustainable running, focusing on setting an intention (how you want to feel), listening to body and mind, letting go of expectations.

I still have a plan that I (mostly) follow. I have goal races. I focus on miles and workouts. But I’ve also learned that some days, the workout on the plan just isn’t going to happen as planned. And that’s OK. Because running and everything else is about maintaining health, managing stress, and spending time with my wonderful partner.

And every once in a while, beating past me in a race 😉