Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The tail and the dog

As I edge closer to my April race date I find myself tuning my runs for greater speed and distance. Knowing that these upcoming races are looming creates an urgency to my training. Four miles on April 19. No big deal for most runners but it's still a challenging distance for me. I have exceeded the four mile mark a few times and I could probably even run five now but I wouldn't be too happy by the finish.

I recently ran into a friend who I haven't seen in a while. Like everyone who knows me but hasn't seen me for six months he looked concerned and asked warily if I'd lost weight. I told him yes, that I'd been running. He told me that he runs and has been running for years. I asked him about distances and he said he runs six miles during the week and over ten miles on weekends. We compared paces, etc. and once again I was humbled in the presence of a real runner.

I told him that I was signed up for a couple of races in the spring and I asked him how often he competed. He surprised me by saying he didn't race. In fact he had never raced and didn't see the point of it. To him running, not competing, is the point. When you're competing you spend your time focusing your activity on a single event - not on the enjoyment of the sport. Running is the dog and the race is the tail. Most people chase the tail and miss the fun. He said he'd rather just run. I asked him then why he tracked distance and pace and he laughed and said it was a force of habit.

I'm not sure that I agree with my friend on this. Training for a race can be fun. Making goals and training to exceed them can be an enjoyable experience. I don't expect to win on April 19th but I'm going to try. There are worse things to do on your birthday.

3 comments:

  1. I'm with you - isn't racing a big part of the fun?! I've only done two 5Ks, but I loved the atmosphere, and I'll be honest....I got more pleasure than I would have thought out of passing people! Granted, many of those people were pushing strollers, or were at least 20 years older than me, but not all of them were! :-)

    Besides, having that date on the calendar makes a big difference for me in terms of motivation!

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  2. I am anticipating the races a lot. I ran in a corporate challenge in the mid 90's but that was long ago. You never know how you'll do against your training standards. Did you do better than your normal 5K pace when you competed?

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  3. The first 5K, my pace was about the same as what I'd been training at, but I was really just figuring it all out. I ran the second one much faster than I had trained - I was training then at about 10 minute miles on a treadmill and on a flat park track, and I maintained about a 9 minute mile pace throughout the 5K despite the significant hills. It was awesome to finish in 28:00 minutes - not fast for most maybe, but for me it sure was!

    I went out for breakfast after, and then took a long nap!

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