In college I ran a 5,000 meter PR in the first meet of my sophomore indoor track season and allowed it to be completely overshadowed by a disappointing second place finish. I thought I had won the race due to confusing lap traffic on a 200 meter track and didn’t learn until a few hours later that I’d finished in second place.
I could easily fill a post with stories similar to these. Maybe I set my goals too high, or maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I am rarely satisfied with a PR. I haved obsessed about seconds. (Why couldn’t 5:26 have been 5:21? After all, 5:21 sounds more impressive than 5:26…) But when I had an unexpected 10k PR at the Minster Oktoberfest, suddenly the clouds parted and I had an epiphany.In this one race, I not only felt a sense of redemption for the training abyss otherwise known as the year 2012, I also felt the PR-satisfaction that had become so rare and remembered a few oft-forgotten running lessons.
YOU ARE FITTER THAN YOU THINK
For months prior to this race, I had a rather sulky attitude towards competitive running. I listened longingly as my teammates talked about team championships, upcoming winter/spring track meets, and OTQ marathon opportunities. I listened and hoped, and secretly worried that I would never be that runner again. Instead of a winter base, I had laps in the pool and miles on the bike. Instead of my usual summer routine of 10-12 runs a week, I had weekly mileage topping out at 50-60 miles.
I needed this race. I needed it to remind me that although I may not have leaped forward, I really didn’t lose much ground on my long-term running goals. I needed it to remind me that downtime and setbacks are instrumental in building fitness. I needed this race to renew my faith in running.
This race reminded me that running is FUN! And the most influential lesson any runner can learn is to always have fun. After all if you aren’t having fun, why do this? Why spend so much free time doing something if you don’t enjoy it?
In the past, I’ve allowed pressure and (self-imposed) expectations to stifle me with fear. I’ve also been able to convert pressure and expectations into confidence and opportunity. But I can probably count on one hand the number of races I have run with zero expectations. And you know what? Those races always turn out well. Why? Without the pressure of a certain finishing time or place, I was able to simply enjoy running.
Now, truthfully, I went in to this race with a very loose goal of running a <39:50 to renew my spot on my team roster. But I viewed it more as an option than an absolute. Similar to my approach to my attempt at a 2:46 marathon. This is what I want. Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t, but I’m going to have fun trying. And I had fun with every step of this 10 kilometer run.
And so a new race-favorite was born. Minster Oktoberfest 10k. I had fun. I PR’d. And, for the first time in a long time, I was happy with my PR!
Could it be that letting loose and reducing the gravity of our expectations are the keys to a perfect-race?