Some things come easy. Some things don’t. Math, giving speeches and—oh yes—running are on my long list of challenges. I used to run a lot. After many marathons I came to the painful conclusion that I was an unnaturally slow runner. During races I would sling invisible arrows at the folks that passed by me and I would beat myself up for not being able to pass people that looked “unfit.” When someone “unworthy” passed me, I was puzzled—then angry—then very discouraged. The harshness with which I judged others was nothing compared to that which I directed at myself. Despite rigorous training, I went slower and slower in every race.
Based on this history, an ego driven person (or perhaps a wise one) would choose to participate in a different sport—maybe one she is good at. I am not very bright, so I quit running and started doing……. triathlons! The problem is that running was STILL part of the deal.
So 6 months ago I committed to improving my running. I told myself that I would be happy to just be average. I lost 40 pounds, got some coaching, watched myself on video, went to the gym twice a week to improve my strength, attended running clinics, read and bought videos on how to run (not merely how much to run). These techniques included “Chi Running,” “Evolution Running,” and “Pose Running.” I improved my running posture, and started running with a metronome beeping incessantly at 90 rpm. I wore my heart rate monitor and stayed in my training zones. Running was no longer a mindless activity. I had to concentrate on each step.
My training has focused on completing a half-iron distance which is still a few months away, so yesterday’s race was not going to be a big deal. But by the time I had attended the pre-race expo, decided what to wear, weighed my shoes to pick the lightest pair…well, I was well into it as a defining event. Would my months of effort pay off?
During the race I pictured myself running along effortlessly. Passing and being passed were meaningless. I was interested only in doing my best—keeping relaxed, keeping my form together, staying in the right heart rate zone, keeping my cadence at 90 rpm. It was a lot to think about. I made no judgments about those running around me except appreciating their effort as well as mine. From a psychological perspective, it was my best race ever.
The race results are in and I am proud to say that I finished in the middle of the pack—having finally attained the status of AVERAGE! All of the extra work has paid off. As I reflect on that day, indeed my running mechanics have improved, but the real victory has been the change in my state of mind. I am no longer a discouraged runner, I am a focused one. It is this change in perspective that has transformed my running the most.
The race was fun. I am really sore today, but I am happy.
Author of the latest in the Ironman Series of books,
"Ironplanner: Iron-distance organizer for triathletes", USAT level 1 coach.