2014 was an amazing year for me as an athlete. If you would have told me 4 years ago that I’d be running marathons and writing about it, I would have laughed at you, and then pointed my finger at you and laughed some more. But here I am.
I was always the geek in high school. More worried about getting good grades, copy editing the school newspaper and getting to drama guild rehearsal on time than any type of sports. It wasn’t until later in life that I found my athletic competitive side. I compete with myself the worst. 2014 is evidence. If I go back just a bit to 2013, the year I ran my first half marathon, I can find my starting point. I ran my first 13.1 in 2 hours 16 minutes. Not bad for a newbie. I signed up for the Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas later that year, with a kinda-sorta goal of finishing under 2 hours. Not impossible, but I didn’t truly understand the training needed to get there. I didn’t hit my goal. I finished in 2 hours 12 minutes. I was mad. Pissed off, ticked, you name it. Angry mad at myself. This is where I let my competitive side take over. I wanted that sub-2 hour half. Bad. I signed up for an April half marathon, and started training my ass off over Christmas week. I blew my goal away by finishing in 1 hour 55 minutes, setting a new Personal Record by 17 minutes. That was huge. I felt great! In my euphoria, I dove right into my next challenge (competitive side really burning high now) and signed up for my first marathon.
I set myself an aggressive goal to finish my first marathon in 4 hours. I figured if I could do a half in 1:55, that a 4 hour marathon was possible. I set my training plan and started training my ass off again. It was a hot and humid summer to train over. But I did it. Every day I got up and reminded myself that I had committed to running this marathon, both mentally, and by paying the entry fee. I was going to go make a good showing of it.
And this is where I fell down. Training for a marathon is no joke. I was running 5 days a week, and at peak, 50 miles a week. This takes a LOT of time. And effort. Add on top of that the fact that I’m a busy career man, with a challenging job during the day, and putting the finishing touches on raising a 17-year old girl to be a responsible adult, and an attentive husband to my stellar wife. That is a LOT to expect of anyone. But I did it. And what I found at the end was ugly.
I got to the point where I was dreading the run. Not another run on another hot day. I was so mentally exhausted that I kept questioning why I was doing this at all. Who was I trying to prove something to? I was physically exhausted most of the time as well. My training was aggressive to try and get me into shape to achieve my aggressive goal. But my 42-year-old body, while in pretty good shape, was having a hard time rising to the occasion. I realized I hated this. Hated it bad. I didn’t want to run anymore. It was all just too much. But my sense of duty that I committed to this race would not let me stop. So I didn’t.
I ran my marathon. I felt pretty good on race day, and mostly throughout the race. I was not in the right mental place to finish strong. I was mentally tired, and part of me just wanted to get it over with so I could get on with my life. My pace really suffered in the final 10K, as most first timers do, and I finished in 4 hours 33 minutes. Which, in retrospect, is a stellar time for a first-time marathoner in his 40’s. I finished on my own power. I should be more proud of the achievement. But whenever I think about it, all I can think about is how badly I felt at the end of all of that training.
I took most of the month of November off from running. I needed the break. Yeah I packed on a few pounds after being so active and then not. But it’s okay. I sort of started back running a little bit in December, but not much.
At the end of December, I ran one of my favorite runs, the Kris Kringle 5 miler. I hadn’t been out for a while and was certainly not in peak shape, but I went out and just ran. And I loved it. There was no pressure for a finish time or a PR. No mental grief over some expectation of performance. I just ran. And that’s when it hit me. This is how my running should be. It should be joyous that I have the strength to run, that I am able to run. I do so much love to run. Anything that detracts me from that feeling of joy in motion is bad, and I need to stay away from it.
So my goals for 2015 are to simply let go of any expectation of performance and just enjoy the crap out of my running. I’m already signed up for 7 5K’s, 1 10K, and 2 half marathons before the end of July. I don’t care how I finish. I’m just going to go and run them. And enjoy the crap out of each one. Because I can run, and I love to run. I’m going to focus more on cross training, and try to exercise something every day, because a stronger me will naturally become a faster, fitter me without having to pressure myself into some artificial goal. It will be what it is, and I’m going to be happy with it. So far, so good. I’ve been working out at something nearly every day, and am still feeling the love.
What are your goals for 2015? Have you ever felt this way about your training? How do you find “the happy” in each day’s run?