It’s officially that time of year.
The air is fresh, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the paths are cleared.
It’s running season. For real this time.
No more “I wonder if it might start snowing” or “The temperature went up 20 degrees in the past five minutes. Sure wish I didn’t wear two layers!” garbage running that’s been thrown our way thanks to some split personality weather. Things have calmed down and now “The Weather” is only 60% of daily conversation here instead of its usual 85%.
Since I have committed to two races so far (half marathon in July and marathon in October) I figured it was time to lace up the ol’ Asics and hit the trails. I’m working as a run coach for our store so on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for the next few months I’m committed to running my butt off (having others hold you accountable helps out a lot). Yesterday was our first run as a group (tempo), and I learned a very valuable lesson:
In order to accomplish your goals, you have to start at day one. On day one, you are a novice. You will get smoked. And you’ll hate it. But you have to leave your ego behind.
I’m not used to being bad at things. That’s not to say I’m not bad at anything, but anything I haven’t excelled at I’ve quit, so as not to humiliate myself. And I can’t say for sure that I’m “bad” at running. But it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. I dreaded the mile run all throughout school. One mile. I picked it up as something to do to stay in shape during college. It wasn’t a competition, because it was just me and the sidewalk.
When I run, I run lazy. That is, I run for fun. I usually set out to do anywhere from 4-6 miles at a ~9:15 pace. I have never done speedwork, tempo runs, fartlek, or anything like that. I honestly don’t even know what those words really mean. And even though I consider myself a runner, I had a pretty huge shock waiting for me today at our first group run.
The ten of us met at the store and started a quick warmup. I was feeling confident and strong, until the tempo run began. We were instructed to run 20 minutes out, 20 minutes back, for a total of 40 minutes. The first ten were a warmup pace (aka our normal pace, which for me hovers around 9:15), and the second ten were supposed to be a pace 30 seconds faster than normal. The third chunk of ten minutes was a pace 45 seconds faster than our base pace, followed by a cooldown ten at our warmup speed.
Sounds simple enough, right? I thought so too. Until we took off and I realized five of the ten runners were pacing 6min miles.
See that group in front of me? That’s how far behind I was. At that was the closest gap I had the whole run.
The feeling of watching people run faster and further away from you SUCKS. It’s completely out of your control. You’re only as fast as you are in that present moment. No matter how quickly I moved my legs or swung my arms, there was no way I was going to catch up. I was so, so angry at myself. I gave it everything I had and didn’t even care that I was basically wheezing and dry heaving as I passed other runners. In the end, I ran those 5 or so miles at an incredibly fast speed….for me. My splits ranged between 8:28 and 8:45. I was damn proud!
The moral of the story? Everyone starts somewhere. This is my first marathon. This is the first time I’ve ever viewed running as a competition. I didn’t casually meander onto my Varsity basketball team in high school. I spent years in the gym learning the game, practicing moves, and mastering fundamentals. Running is no different. It is my new sport, my new team. The team just happens to be me, myself and I. And right now I just have to leave my ego behind, accept that for now I am slower than many other runners, and be excited to get better.
That’s where I am right now. I feel like a sponge, ready to soak up all the running information. I’m excited to get better. I’m tired of only doing things I’m good at. Because when you do that, you don’t grow. I’m proud that I set a goal that will actually be difficult to accomplish, and you know what? I might fail. I’ve never set a goal before that I might fail.
But so what? So what if I fail? Who is that hurting? My ego? A figment of my imagination? WHO CARES! I read a quote the other day that resonated with me then and even more now that my ego is feeling pretty bruised:
The ego desires perfection. The inner-self lives in authenticity
Even though we are all at different paces and have different goals, we are all on the same path. At the end of our run we were all back on equal footing in our dedication, passion, and love for the sport.
That being said, if anyone in Chicago is looking for a running group, we meet at the lululemon Rush store in the Gold Coast on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm and Saturday mornings at 7am. Tuesdays are tempo runs, Thursday is speed work, and Saturday is a long run. I’d love to share the joy of running with you 🙂