Recently a member of my racing team, Danielle Kleppan, sent me a link to, in this case, the wise words of the elite runner Ryan Hall. I will share these words later, but the fact that she cared enough to post the link on Facebook spoke volumes about why running is so elevating to the spirit.
She may not know it ( yet!!!) but that simple act meant so much to me as I slowly make my return back to some sort of decent form as a racer. The sharing of advice, experience and hope borne of a genuine desire to see each of us improve and gain satisfaction from what we do marks running out as almost unique among the sporting activities that people of all ages, sizes, pace and gender can immerse themselves in. I say this often, but running is a community – one that embraces the spirit and fends off the craziness of the world for a few precious hours a week.
Incidentally, I recalled seeing Ryan Hall give a presentation at the Houston Marathon Expo. He imparted all manner of practically useful tips and hints to those of us gathered to listen to him that day. Truthfully, 98% of those rapt by his words would never experience a sub 5 minute mile and certainly not in a marathon, but this did not dull the applicability of what he said that day. Listening to the great runners can benefit us all. So. More of his words later.
Running is a curious beast when all is said and done. We train hard often running at crazy hours of the day, sweating our guts out, exhausting every last ounce of our energy all in the hope that we can express ourselves well on race day. We can be hard taskmasters if we do not run well, or more importantly, it seems, satisfy the fragility of the inner runner’s ego, that less than silent voice that nags at us as we try to reclaim former capabilties or get better still. In response to this ‘inner voice’ the litany of reasons as to why we did not do as well as we had hoped in a race are often recited in the post race ‘analysis’ that we all revel in. Runners certainy love to talk about running. We either celebrate or commiserate.
Sometimes an expression of apparent satisfaction with a race can be couched in such terms that the listener will say ‘don’t be so hard on yourself, you had a good race’. Such a sentiment was expressed to me last Sunday more than once. I was surprised as I did not think I was being negative but it may have come across that way or at best as not recognising what was good about the run. It seemed I was being received that way. I had run a season PR and while it was a warm day ( 80 degrees), a late start for a Florida race and a demanding course that included two large river bridges I may have given a misleading impression. Inside I was heartily satisfied with the run. Or so i thought……………….
As for the race. I had run a quick first mile, there was no vestige of the aches and pains I had felt all week after a really hard track session. The cadence and motion, for me , was smooth and I was passing people. I was still struggling to kick myslef into the zone of discomfort that I had felt for my PR races, but I was cruising well. Mile two, as ever, was a bit slack and then the third mile was quick again. In this race I felt the ability to maintian a pace but there was none of the old kick. That would have to wait for another day !
My season PR was only three seconds better than the previous week run on a flat course and a cooler day but it was, none the less, a season PR. I thought, as I crossed the line, ‘I’ll take it!!!’ I really was happy. But my inner runner, the one trying to get out again, seemed to have commandeered the microphone. The innner runner was broadcasting to anyone interested, or not in some instances, vaguely egotistical rants that really said more about why it was such a ‘bugger’ not to be running like I did last season than being satisfied with what I had just done. I thought my words were those of a happy runner, but the iner runner prevailed and muddied the waters.
Then came what might sound like excuses. Why excuses? Well. The fact is that I ran only a year or so earlier a minute and a quarter quicker : 20:18 to be precise. This year I had battled back from an injury layoff and in the light of advice from so many running friends I had limited my miles and rested where in the past I would have run just to get my miles in. On the back of 12-15 miles a week I ought to be very happy, particularly at my age. But that inner voice, perched on my shoulder at this point, no doubt to ensure being noticed, was the one that people were hearing. ‘It was a tough race’, ‘it was hot’, ‘I was not doing the hard miles’ etc, etc. The reality was that I had once again made real progress in a race. With that little devil of a voice sitting on a runners shoulder it can appear as though former results are a thousand miles away. In actuality they are not, they happened in a different time and under different circumstances. As many of my friends say : it is important to run in ‘the now’ and celebrate each good run for what it is. Many of my freinds said that this past Sunday and I was ultimately grateful for their well intentioned words. They gave me a better perspective.
In reality I have a little way to go to genuinely get close to the two or three guys that I know can out run me in my age group, but I should be very happy with the race on race improvement I have experienced since returning to racing just a few weeks ago. I know what to do from this point and if I can stay injury free I should continue to pick up speed and stamina for this demanding little race. 5K races hurt, notably if run at pace. This is something I am set to explore in the coming weeks. The clear light of reason and much appreciated advice will stunt the volume of the complaints my inner running ego and allow me to continue to enjoy the fact that I am running at all. This is something we should all be gratefull for as we witness the passing of more racing seasons !
As for the inner runner and his expression of angst at being less than him former self I can only refer him to the wise words of Ryan Hall and respectfully ask the ego to be quiet awhile
‘Training, especially after injuries,requires patience and faith. Not comparing yourself to where you’ve been but celebrating progress is key’
Well put Ryan !!!
This weekend saw progress indeed and if progress is good enough for Ryan Hall its good enough for me!!!
Thanks Danielle for sharing this, it made a difference and that is why I love running. We do this stuff !!!!!