“Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.” — Mahatma Gandhi
At the time, I thought nothing of a very casual conversation I had with a new teammate during the Colonial 200 Relay. Truth be told, I think I was just too sleep deprived for it to really strike me until later. We were chatting about all things running: races, goals, past accomplishments, and the ever-so-common — and often inexplicable — bad day of running.
I confessed that my full marathon days were likely behind me, but I was content with the half marathon being my race distance of choice. And, I was so confident in that decision that my goal was to run the Richmond Half in two hours, something I haven’t done since having kids. That’s when I started rambling: I’m not sure why I set that goal. I wasn’t so confident any more that I could do it. I still wanted to try but…
What he said didn’t sink in until later. “You know what’s great goal?” my teammate asked. “To finish a race. To finish and not be injured. To finish with a smile on your face and think, ‘what a great run.’ ”
He went on to talk about how, as runners, we obsess. We obsess over missing a run. We obsess over messing with our training schedule. We obsess over our pace, our shoes, our aches and pains, our diets, and – yep, I’m going to go there — our bowel movements.
And, he’s right. We can be as ritualistic as a baseball player on a winning streak and as OCD as one on a losing streak.
The thing of it is, we can do the exact same thing day in and day out — and we can prepare the exact same way for a race, right down to the meal we eat the night before — and you can just as easily have a bad day as a good one. Sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes it’s the course, but sometimes it just depends on the day.
While I’m certainly not giving up my goal, I have decided not to get so wrapped in the prep that I stop enjoying running. I know my pattern enough to realize when I’m dreading running because I’m too focused on the results: What was my pace? How was I feeling? Why did I do well? Why didn’t I do well? I walked a little. I didn’t need to walk. Yadda, yadda, yadda…
My teammate asked what my recent times had been and I told him about my great experience running the Waynesboro Half Marathon this spring and my not-so-great experience at the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon a month-and-a-half later. Then he asked what was so different about those races. I noted the weather, the courses, but really, my state of mind. I went into Waynesboro ready to enjoy a day running through a beautiful part of Virginia. For the wine country race, I wanted to enjoy my surroundings, but in the back of my mind was a little voice telling me to run it just as fast, if not faster, than the previous half.
And therein lies the rub. That little voice. Goals are good and setting them keeps us motivated to tackle our training plans, even when we are too tired and feel too weak.
But those goals can also be our biggest downfall. That little voice can sometimes do more harm than good, making you forget why you’re out there running in the first place: The relief. The sanctuary. The community. The hardship. The pursuit. The bliss.
I’m not giving up the goal, but I’m not letting it define why I run.
“You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.” — E. O. Wilson
Monthly wrap up: September was another 100+ mile month (105+).
Training, weeks 7 & 8: Week 7 was all about my 200-mile relay race. Week 8 was all about recovering from that. This week, though, I’m back to the plan. My scheduled 5-mile pace run felt good tonight.
Mileage to date and training log update below.