As I reflect on my past few years of running, an obvious trend emerges from the data. Each consecutive race moved me just beyond my old comfort zone. I started out only interested in the shortest and flattest courses, always looking to improve those splits. Now I consider a beautiful path with a heavy dose of tough love to be my only requirements.
I started running in Tucson, Arizona. The hot days mandated long runs start at 4am and speed work take place after the sun set. At the time, I never considered myself a “runner.” All of my friends were faster than me. As hard as I tried, I always seemed to be in the “slow” group.
I always try to tell new runners starting out not to compare yourself to other runners around you. From personal experience I know that it’s much easier said than done, but I wish I would have had someone there to tell me back then.
I moved and decided that I just wanted to race for fun. I ditched my watch and ran without GPS proof for almost 2 years. Somehow when I stopped caring about pace my times were dropping left and right. I ran the Central Ohio Brokeman’s half in 2015 and finished with a snazzy new PR of 1:43:44! No watch, just a steps counter. I actually didn’t even know what my PR was off of the top of my head anymore and had to look up results from my previous PR race. I asked myself: When was it ever going to be fast enough? Answer: Probably never. When I focused on my numbers I always wondered why they couldn’t be lower.
Since then I’ve shifted my focus to longer distances. Plain and simple, running is more fun when there’s mud and hills. How can you compare times across races when each presents its own unique challenge? That’s the best part of trail running for me.
So I’ve let go of pace and time despite being “in my prime.” I could care less. I have no desire to qualify for Boston. I’m not going to be the next breakout track star. I’m finding that running is easier to enjoy when you take what running gives you each day instead of calculating how much time you’ve banked and what mile splits you need to run to the finish (and don’t forget to repeat that process every mile when your watch beeps!). Math has never been fun anyway.