On Relativity

You know that saying, “There is always someone better than you”? It’s so like that in running, too. And it’s true that there is always someone worse than you, too. My relative place in running kept coming up this week.

There was a discussion about increasing group participation, the Olympic Trials, my obsession with data, and an affirmation of why running is so great.

Group Participation
Every group I have been a part of has been interested in increasing membership and making sure they are welcoming to newcomers. It’s intimidating to just show up for a run when you don’t know anyone, how fast they run, and if you’ll “ruin” someone’s workout (hint, you won’t).

The only reason I first showed up was because I had signed up for Running Start. I thought I was a failed runner for all the times I quit. I was pretty down on myself about it. Happily, I did have Running Start to ease me in to the group, and I got past that initial worry that I wasn’t Good Enough. I was Good Enough, I learned, just by showing up. That’s not always true for every sport or activity, but to be a runner is to run. I realized it didn’t matter your speed or miles per week, it is just running.

Olympic Marathon Trials
On Saturday, elite runners from all over the US competed for a spot on the 2012 Olympic Marathon teams. The top four men finished in less than 2:10, which was the first time that many American men finished that quickly. The women’s winner, Shalane Flanagan, won in 2:25:37.

The two teams have a chance to do good things later this year in London, but for most runners, even making the Trials is a career achievement. For others, completing a marathon is more than enough to dream about. However, watching these elite runners go about their jobs really inspires me. My goal of breaking 2 hours in a half marathon this year is doable. I totally believe it now since Desi Davila can run a marathon in less than 2:30:00. Could you even imagine running a 5:20 pace for 2:30:00? I can barely do that for 0:00:30! No matter what, their success proves I can meet my goal with time, proper care and a bunch of the right training.

Kate and The Spreadsheet
While the super fast elites were running their race Saturday morning, I was running a race of my own. Cindy, Elaine, and I did the Shooting Starr 4 miler, which is a Montgomery County Road Runners low key race ($10 for non members, free for members! Check it out!). After the race, we were sitting in the cafeteria of the middle school I attended (much smaller than I remembered, by the way). We were chatting about race times and generally getting faster.

Now, I am a bit of a data freak. I keep this spreadsheet that’s got all kinds of data. I weigh myself every morning. I also record a “fat percentage,” which is soooo not accurate. I keep track of my resting heart rate now and then, and I log my miles and what I did and how I felt. I also record my race times and manage my training plan there. I make graphs and use silly formulas. Lately, I’ve gotten even more motivated with it and added some more sophisticated data tracking. I also just rearranged everything and set the fonts to make it prettier. It’s probably (more than) a little silly, but I enjoy trying to make it easy to get insights on my training.

So I mention one or the other of my new data-tracking efforts, and Elaine points out that if she kept all that data, she’d expect to win some races. Of course, I won’t be winning races, like, ever. It’s all about enjoying keeping my data, watching it, and trying to make it, and me, better. A little like why I run. Or perhaps exactly why I run.

An Affirmation
All of this leads to the affirmation of why I love this sport. Naturalist-runner-blogger Andrea and I spent some time Monday making trouble talking about things little and big. At one point, we were talking about the difference of racing against yourself and racing to win an award. We both really only have a chance of placing in our age groups, and each of us have won an award exactly once in our respective careers.

Andrea then pointed out that the reason she loves running is that she competes with herself. And she’s so right. I don’t come out every day so I can run faster than anyone. It’s sure nice if that I have people to pace with and people to chase, but they’re also different enough that I can’t compare myself to them very well. But when it comes down to it, I’m there to get faster than last week’s version of me. Where else do you get to isolate so many variables and make the competition really against yourself?

Week Recap
I put in 29.5 miles this week. I put in three hard workouts and two easy ones. I was especially happy with the track workout and being able to keep up with Elaine on our long run. I took a Pilates class on Wednesday, but I’ll probably have to quit. It really aggravated my back and I’m still recovering now five days later. I’m rather used to back pain by now, and running doesn’t make it much worse, so I’m careful to listen to my body and stop if I have to.

This week, I’m going to be adding a tempo run as my third hard day. Tempo runs are meant to increase your body’s toleration of whatever your race pace will be. I think these runs really helped me in my last training cycle, so I’m (sort of) looking forward to them. They’re incredibly tough so I’ll be hating life during the run, but I think I’ll be happy with the results I see. Wish me luck!

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