I’m pretty competitive and my favorite person to compete against is myself. I think that’s why my favorite sports I’ve done have been cross country, track, and swimming. I get to race other people, but at the same time, I’m competing against the clock and competing against my past self.
I did a race called the Tar Heel 10 Miler two years ago, when I was a senior in high school. I ran the 10 miles in 68 minutes, went home to shower and eat lunch, and then immediately headed to my conference track meet. At the meet, I ran the 2 miler in 12:30 (about 45 seconds slower than my best time that season, but that’s more or less what I was expecting because of the 10 miles earlier that day). The 2 miles was honestly harder and more painful than the 10 miles had been just because I was really tired at that point, but I remember feeling on top of the world afterwards.
I was in tip-top shape, running 7-8 miles per day, with at least one hill workout and one speed workout per week. I was foam rolling and stretching like crazy. And I was sleeping 8 hours each weeknight and 9-10 on the weekends. The morning after my double race day, I woke up more sore than I’d ever been in my life, but still feeling great about the previous day.
So, that takes us to this Saturday when I ran my third Tar Heel 10 Miler. It’s an awesome course that goes right through my school’s campus and the starting line is just half a mile away from my dorm. Things were a little different this time around, though, because doing any type of specific training for the race hasn’t been a priority for me this semester.
The last time I ran 10+ miles was during my most recent half marathon…which was in November of 2014. These days, I’m running an average of about 5 miles per day at an easy, chatty pace. I do zero speed or hill workouts each week. I sleep about 6-7 hours per night.
A week or so before the race, I started wondering why I’d signed up because clearly I hadn’t made time to really prepare for it. Due to my competitive nature, I’ve never once just done a race “for fun” because I’ve always thought that the definition of fun = beating my previous times. Some of you might be wondering what’s wrong with this girl, but I have a feeling that some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
For this race, I knew there’s no way I’d run it like I did two years ago. And to make matters worse, there’s an infamous hill near the end of the race that lasts for nearly a mile.
For the first time, I decided to let myself race “just for fun.” I took 2 quick water breaks at the aid stations, which I’d never done in a race before. I also paused at least 5 times on the side of the course, hands on my knees, to cough my lungs out and attempt to breathe (allergy season). I’d like to take a moment to sincerely apologize to every runner around me during those times because, gross. I finished in about 80 minutes– a full 12 minutes slower than my best time. And I woke up the next morning and still, somehow could hardly walk.
And surprisingly enough, I feel good about it! I don’t see that race as a failure because…
1) I realized life has seasons and this season happens to be one that involves a lot of late nights because of homework, work, and time with friends. My GPA, debit card, and happiness depend on those three things, respectively, and so I wouldn’t trade them.
2) I remembered that I run because I LOVE it– not because I need to prove something to myself, like that I’m capable of running faster or working hard or anything else. I run because it makes me happy, keeps me centered, and it helps me stay healthy.
3) I had fun! Since I hadn’t done a race in about 1 1/2 years, I’d forgotten how much I love the environment of being around a ton of other runners and I definitely got bitten by the race bug again. There was lots of live music and spectators cheering, which made it a fun environment. Spectators’ signs always make me laugh, like one that said “Run faster. If you pass out, I’ll pause your Garmin” (#runnerjokes).
Running the race was a great way to spend my Saturday morning and since it started early in the morning and was so close to my dorm, I even got to hop back in bed for a little while afterwards.
In any case, I realize I’m the only one who cares about my race times so that wasn’t the point of this post. I mostly just wanted to share my experience of how freeing it’s been to let go of some perfectionist tendencies. My high school self would’ve been mortified that I was sore after running 10 miles at an 8:00 pace, but my current self knows that I’m the one who arranged my priorities for the semester and training for a race just wasn’t one of them. And that’s okay.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with training for a race and wanting to do it really well– I’d love to do that soon! But I think it’s also important to cut yourself some slack during extra-crazy times of your life. These past couple of years have been about allowing myself to relax and cut myself some slack when I can’t do everything perfectly and this race was one of those times. Doing the best that I can at the time is great– I don’t have to outperform myself! If you’re like me…practice giving yourself some grace, okay?
So tell me…
Are you a competitive type?
What’s the last race you did or the next race you have coming up?
What’s your ideal race distance?
This race’s slogan is “10 is perfect” and I might have to agree!
Do you have any similar struggles?