As of late I find myself faced with questions, doubts, and new ideas concerning sport, a space I have come to realize is part and parcel for most athletes. Goals are born, worked towards, shifted, achieved, abandoned for new ones. I find myself questioning much of what I’m doing as a runner, what my goals are, what my focus should be. Certain short-term things are known, but the bigger picture has become cloudy.
As of right now, I know two things: I am running a 50K on May 21st and I have to do certain types of runs between now and then in order to be ready. Second, I know I simply love to run, preferably in the mountains.
I believe the rest is flexible.
My general goals have always revolved around distance. I am fascinated by the concept of going far under one’s own power and was drawn to serious running by the classic nature of the marathon. Perhaps I am also attracted to distance because I seem to be better at it. I’ve never been fast, but I seem to possess the ability to go pretty far, finding enjoyment in the mental and physical aspects of doing so.
In recent weeks, however, I’ve made a discovery in my running- that going as fast and hard as I can is fun. My once-weekly track workouts have opened a new door and shed fresh light on aspects of running that I’ve generally always avoided, intentionally or not: namely speed and intensity. In distance running, at least the type I practice, one has to be mindful of always maintaining a reserve, primarily so as to not get stuck in the mountains somewhere, facing an epic limp home. But the track has taught me the joy of pushing hard until there’s nothing left. Be it a 200 meter or a single mile, I find it refreshing to cross the finish line and punch the clock, head spinning after making the last turn and wondering if I’m going to collapse before I make the line.
This leads me to wonder about a new approach, combined with new running goals. Perhaps after this 50K I’ll change my focus, building myself back up as a different sort of runner. Despite my achievements- many marathon and ultramarathon distance runs, be they solo or official, I’ve always felt a little bit like a hack because, well…I’m pretty slow. So I’m thinking about starting over, focusing on shorter, faster distances, and building back up to the marathon. Only this time, really pushing for a fast time (relatively speaking), perhaps ultimately trying to qualify for Boston; currently a sub 3:15 for my 35-39 age group (I just turned 35).
Have I dodged running fast because I know it’s hard, because it scares me? In many ways, I believe so. It’s something I would like to overcome.
Am I allowing myself too much drift, to much slack in walking away from previous ideas and plans in pursuit of new ones?
Who knows. There is certainly something to be said for finding something very difficult to achieve and sticking with the plan to get there. In some senses, I feel like I’ve failed here, namely in my recent triathlon pursuits. But on the other hand, are we not to allow ourselves experimentation? Is it truly something to hang one’s head about if three months into training you find you’re just not that motivated about that particular sport or distance? Good always comes from any endeavor, whether it’s seen through or not. Though I never did do a triathlon, I overcame my fear of swimming, to the point I can get in the water and swim a mile without fear. That is certainly worth something even though I never crossed a finish line.
Running will always remain a constant in some way, I have no doubts about that. It is the sole physical activity that I’ve been able to regularly do without losing interest at some point. So the question is simply what kind of running I want to do. Perhaps I’d like to enter the mainstream for a while; race some 5Ks, work on my speed and form, and try to start establishing some PRs in the classic distances, working my way up.
On a side note, I believe I’m going to stop my running summaries here. It’s redundant and too focused on numbers. I’ll try to insert the link to my RunningAhead training log instead.