When is it time for a runner to stop chasing big dreams?
Recently on the Letsrun.com forums, runners debated this very question. We’ve talked about these big dreams here too. Of course, we are all for going after the craziest pie in the sky running goals and the easy answer to this question is never. But, something I’ve come to realize, and something the Letsrun discussion got me thinking about was a slightly different question:
When we have big running dreams, must we always run for the purpose of achieving that dream?
Actually, this discussion is common in my household and among runner friends. I’ve often heard competitive runners say that if they didn’t have competitions to train for, they don’t know if they would even run anymore. Chasing down the dream keeps most of us motivated. But what happens when you don’t feel like training for a race? Is it possible to run just to run? Of course, the answer is yes but if you belong to a community of runners, it’s not uncommon to get asked on a run, “So what’s up next for you?” Lately, I’ve answered with, “I don’t know. I’m just running.” Then the conversation usually ends.
Right now for me personally, the truth is that I am enjoying running for the simple act of running. This doesn’t mean that I have shut out my competitive days once and for all. It’s just where I am residing right now as a runner. Granted, I was never going to set a world record, but I was following competitive training plans, running PRs, and training with some of my area’s best. However, the time invested was starting to become too much. And, now, as I undergo a career change that includes starting my own business, the type of competition I am seeking has changed.
On New Years Eve, I jumped into a 5k with a friend and ran 24 minutes and some change. Two years ago on the same course, I had run 22 flat. Afterward, it stung a little bit. But instead of beating myself up, I decided to try and use a concept from my recovery called Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance does not mean that you have to like or agree with what is. Rather, you just accept it for what it is. It is what it is, anyone?
Enough poetry. When is it time to give up on your dreams? The answer is never. But we don’t have to only run with those goals in mind. Sometimes we need a break from chasing the dream and run for another purpose. But with that comes Radical Acceptance. If you are a competitive runner, but don’t feel like training for a race lately, that’s ok. Accept where you are at. Accept where your passions lie. You may still have big running dreams but there is not room for it in your life right now. That’s ok. You may still feel compelled to train away because you are fighting with Father Time. However, as the Letsrun post demonstrated, there are exceptions to the rule that we have to reach our goals by a certain age or within a certain amount of training years.
So instead of running yourself into the ground, take some time to just be as you are. The following are some additional tips:
It doesn’t have to be so black and white
As our very own Mint pointed out on my Akron Marathon DNF post, we often make running harder than it needs to be. We often think if we are not in tip-top shape than we are no good. Stop! Running three minutes slower than your personal best is sure to be a ball buster the first few times you do it, that is if you jump into a race without having done much training. However, if you enjoyed yourself while doing it, isn’t that all that matters? The challenge comes if you didn’t have fun.
Check your ego at the door
This is also easier said than done. Runners not in racing shape will often enter road races under aliases to avoid the embarrassment of slow times. Stop! I’m not perfect either. I’ve been known to do this at times. But a quick look at my Athlinks page shows that I’ve run a few 5ks out of shape. The one in 2009? 31 minutes? Sure, I can give many reasons for such a slow (for me) time. But, it is what it is.
First and foremost, run for you
Whether you are training for competitions or running for physical exercise, make sure you are doing it for you. Not for coaches, not for Facebook, not for anyone else but yourself. Common sense says if you don’t enjoy something than why do it? Frequently ask yourself why you run. The answer often changes. Right now, I love the simple act of running and how it feels. I occasionally like to sprint for what it is; short bursts of power and speed. Someday, I may come back to the track but for now, I like where I am at.
Do you have a big running dream? Have you ever taken a break from chasing it down?