Friday, April 23, 2010

20 years as a runner

Someone asked me the other day how long I had been running, and I realized with a shock that it has been 20 years since the first time I went out for a 5-minute run. Yikes! I still think of myself as a "beginner" at something I have been doing on and off for 20 years. I think that I feel like my pace makes me a beginner, but really, I'm not.

I just recently finished the "Couch to 5K" program as a way to recover from a running injury, and I was thinking about trying to find a 5K race to do. I had one planned, but decided to help out at the race instead of running it. I researched some other races and none of them really excited me. I'm really running now for the runs themselves, and not as training for a race. I may do the "Race for the Cure" this year, just because it's such a great event, but I'm more into the fun of participating these days than the whole competition thing. If I go from being an 11-minute-mile runner to being a 10-minute-mile runner, or even a 9-minute-mile runner, who besides me would really care? Do I even really care?

I still plan to do some triathlons this summer, just because they're so much fun. But I am not all that worried about my time this year, I just want to enjoy myself. This will be my eighth year doing triathlons, and I have participated in at least one short race every year since I started, sometimes two. I'm not a beginner at that either, but Iam and will always be a solid middle-of-the-packer, just like with running. I think that it's really fine with me. When I focus too much on time goals, I am just disappointed with myself instead of being happy that I'm doing something that is fun and athletic and motivating. What's the fun in that?

My husband is really into his running times and that's OK too, but my hero is a guy who belonged to the same triathlon club I used to train with who did the backstroke when he swam in races. The backstroke is not a speedy stroke. I asked him why he did that, and he said that he thought it was more fun that way.

Yeah, fun. Remember that?

When I trained for my first triathlon, I had no thoughts about time. I was just hoping I could do it and finish alive. Finishing that race is one of the few times I've felt pure joy and nothing else. Once I saw the results, all of these competitive thoughts crept in about how I could finish faster, do better. I trained really hard. At one point I even spent $300 on a wetsuit because I thought it could make me faster. I hated swimming in it. It was really tight and hard to get on. I felt like I couldn't breathe or move in it. Finally I got rid of the stupid thing after having it in my closet for years. Sure, $300 down the drain. But it's gone and not stinking up my closet anymore.

I'm not saying that it's a bad thing to want to improve. I'm just trying to find a way to work on it without making every race a test of how worthy I am to call myself a runner or a triathlete. In the same way, I want to work on losing weight without feeling like there's something terrible about being where I am now.

Not sure how to do it, but I would like to have my beginner's mind back. The one that said, "I'm really doing this, how fun!" instead of "Other people are doing it faster."

By the way, I'm not the first person to have pondered this problem.


  1. Wow - how time flies, huh? You should celebrate your 20 year journey! Running is probably the first thing I've ever done where I've allowed myself to not be the best, to not be at the top. Of course, my ability pretty much determined this for me, but to get my mind to agree that it was OK was a bit of an adjustment. I think I'm better off for it. I'm a mid-packer and couldn't be happier.

    BTW, I was going to blow off my 30 minutes exercise yesterday but someone posted something that stayed in my mind so I ended up with a 90 minute walk. Yay group support!

  2. 20 years, cool.

    I did not get my 30 minutes yesterday, alack. I did mow the lawn for an hour today and aaaa-ny minute now I'm going to do my weights. Yessiree. Here I go.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07