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Racing – Training – Running and Struggling With it All

Photo by David Colby-Young

Photo by David Colby-Young

When I started to write this post last week, it was going to be all about how much I hate to train (I don’t), then it morphed into whether I am a serious runner (I am) and moved on to what you are reading now…

  • am I moving in a different direction with the focus of my training?

What in the hell are you talking about Harold?

I know that I am not a great runner by any stretch of  the imagination – no big news there.

However, I am good enough to have some minor successes in races from time-to-time, which results in misplaced delusions of grandeur. In other words I start to pay too much attention to thinking that my minor successes can lead to bigger ones, if only I follow such and such plan or if I do this or that.

Unfortunately, there are  just a couple of small problems with this or that:

  1. I am getting to be an old fart
  2. A lack of talent to run fast over long distances

I think most of us want to believe with a lot of hard work and doing the “right” things according to the experts, that some of those delusions of grandeur can become more than wishful thinking.

If Only I…

Over the past few months, I have stressed out a lot over my running and racing, trying to figure out what type of training will work best for me and the secret, but lofty goals that I had set for myself. I spent a lot of time, selecting a training plan, changing it around and attempting to make it so that in training I am able to go faster, harder, further and more mentally focused than I ever have been. That way when it comes time to race, I will be ready to embrace the pain and set those PRs that I so desperately thought that I wanted.

Unfortunately, this is the trap that I fall into each time I get “serious” about my running.

I start to think – “if only I…”:

  • read all the experts or coaches great motivational books, blogs or magazine articles
  • find the latest and greatest training plan
  • run more quality miles
  • do more speedwork, at race pace or faster
  • do my recovery runs and easy runs at the “right” paces
  • when I race that put it all on the line and push till I can’t – that run till you puke mentality
  • eat clean or whatever the “best” way for runners to eat is being espoused today
  • use supplements to take care of whatever my diet misses
  • if I did what the better runners are doing

and all those other things that us so-called serious runners have to do to improve and become the best runner we can be.

Which is pure bullshit!

Unfortunately, what I am really struggling with is an over-active imagination and difficulty in being able to admit that what I can do as a 56 year-old runner, (with limited talent) is different from what I want it to be.

Actually it sucks that no matter how hard I train, no matter which fantastic training plan I use, no matter if I have a coach or not or who it is, no matter how great I eat, no matter how much I lift weights, do yoga, stretch, read blogs, magazines or watch videos, it will not change who I am and the limitations that I have as a runner.

Get Real

Let’s be real – I have to learn to run within those very real limitations that I have, whether I like it or not.

Unfortunately, we all do.

Racing

Hell it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to push myself or not run in anymore races, because I will continue to do both. I take a lot of pride in working hard as a runner and want to do well when I race. 

That is not going to change anytime soon, but at the same time my body is making me look at what is fast for me now, how much energy I have to give to running and to be quite honest I am not all that into embracing the pain of racing anymore.

In other words, I am finding that the attitude of racing until I puke or injure myself really is not the direction I want to go anymore. After all I run because I want to, not because I have to.

That Little Voice

Since I partially tore my Achilles in a race last May, I have had this little voice of discontent in the back of my mind and as I have returned to training to race over the past few months, it is getting louder and louder.

When I stopped and really listened to it – I realized that all this busting my ass to train so hard to prepare for a race, was more about my ego and me getting caught up in the idea that we all should want or need to run faster and/or further to be successful runners.

What do I really want

I want to be able to do a  weekly 13-15 mile long run, one session of fast intervals (yes I am crazy – I like intervals), finish with between 40-50 miles a week and once in a while run a race at a comfortably hard pace and still be able to run the next day without feeling completely drained.

The reality is that

Thinking about what I want to do as a runner and how I need to train has brought more questions than answers.

  • Do we always need to be the best runner we can possibly be or is it heresy to simply enjoy being a runner?
  • What happens if/when we start questioning the “truths” that seem to be so prevalent in running today?
  • What happens if we question the motives of many of those so-called experts who espouse these lines thinking about running?
  • What do the “experts” say about training to just be a middle of the pack runner? Do I really care?
  • Do I just go into permanent base mileage mode with a weekly speed workout thrown in?
  • How much does getting older affect my attitude towards running and racing, because I know that I am slowing down – no matter how hard I train?
  • Can I stop training to prepare for races and focus more on training to just run, what are the differences?
  • Is running a race at 70-80% effort good enough for me to enjoy the experience, but still be able to satisfy my competitiveness?

They are inconvenient thoughts and questions for those of us that like to train, but are finding out that training to race a race is not the priority it once was.

These are my thoughts, what do you think?

Does anyone else feel this way or am I out left field by myself again?

10 Comments »

  1. We are really on very similar journeys right now Harold! I think this last injury really made me reassess and I am about where you are. Right now I’d like to build to that 40-50 mow level, eventually get speed work back into the picture, and do some racing again. But am I going to kill myself anymore to shave tiny increments off time? No. It’s about enjoying it all while pushing to a reasonable degree but not getting crazy. Those days are in my past!

    • Amanda it really does seem that way or is it that more of us are starting to look differently at our running than we did in the past? Racing is fun, but it doesn’t have to be that all-out, give everything we have to take a couple of seconds off a PR.

  2. Thanks for this honest post. I don’t think you’re crazy. 🙂

    I’m coming into this conversation as a new runner, but even now I can see the same pattern of thinking. “If only I do X, Y, Z, I’ll place in my age group some day.” Which is ridiculous, seeing as my current PR is still not even a mid-pack time. It’s certainly not impossible to get to that point, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow, and it may never happen. And that needs to be okay.

    I think it’s fun to fantasize and dream about what it would be like to run as fast as I think I could … but then I also have to remember that at one time, I fantasized about even being able to run 3 miles. When that moment came, I was so happy! And then suddenly, it seemed so unsatisfying and small. What about six? Done. Ten!! Easy. And the thought occurred to me that at some point, I’ll reach the end of the road – unless I want to run ultras. And I don’t. So, I need to find a point of satisfaction with what I”m able to do.

    I like reading your blog, btw. You strike me as a person who enjoys running and all of the fun side hobbies (GPS data tracking, shoe tech, etc) that go along with it.

    • Thank you for reading it and I enjoy all the fun parts of running too – probably too much according to the wife, when she looks at how much I tend to spend :-).

      Yep we all like to fantasize about how far we can go with our running and that is fun and harmless. We just have to keep ourselves firmly rooted in reality or at least know what we can do, then push to whatever our limits are (which are usually a lot further than we think).

  3. I totally love this post – it describes part of my ‘journey of 2013’ so well. Especially this line “it will not change who I am and the limitations that I have as a runner.” I made so much progress in 2012, and while I know I also did in 2013, the biggest thing was the realization that running tomorrow, next year, and 10 years from now is MUCH more important than ‘getting a BQ’ or anything else.

    It is the joy of running that is tantamount. I will never go back to that guy who ran 12-15 miles per week and basically hid from the world, and I just want to continue to revel in my love of running and my new-found sharing of that love with a great community.

  4. I tend to think in terms of “greed vs speed”. When I’m rested( end of a down week), my “greed” picks up. That is I want to push the speed to place higher in my AG/PR. As I push the “speed work” too much, my “greed” retreats and this seems to cycle. By using AG PR”s (now 60-64), the absolute times change but not the relative “greed”.
    Not sure seasons/time of yr don’t affect this as well.
    Coming off a good race increases “greed” also unfortunately.
    Hope this is normal.

  5. I always appreciate your honesty Harold and this post is no different. I came to the running party late, starting at 44, so I think my expectations about my running have been held in check. Do I have goals and a few PRs I’m chasing? Yes but I’m hoping they’re rooted in the reality. When chasing those milestones starts to suck the life out of my love of running, I know it will be time to let go of the chase.

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