I learned a lot at this week’s 5K Race over in Winthrop. Probably most of it is not news to a lot of runners out there, but it does show that even after 40 years of running that I still have a lot to learn or sometimes remember old lessons that have been forgotten.
Despite all the words, claims and comments to the contrary. Many of us middle of the pack runners, who claim that we are not racing against other runners – just ourselves or the way we used to be, showed a different side – again. Where we place in relation to the other runners in a race, still seems to be pretty important to us. That is, if the number of runners I saw beside me and their comments at the results tent, while we looking to see where we placed and who finished ahead and behind us is any indication. I know that I looked.
Our finish time does matter to most of us, no matter where you finish or what the weather conditions were during a race. We all still look at how long it took us to finish a race and are either happy, pissed or motivated by what the clock tells us. Even us middle of the pack runners, not just the “good” ones.
The weather does affect your running and what your eventual finish time will be. It is just the way it is. However, in a race you are going up against other runners and they are combatting the same weather as you. Conditions are very seldom perfect for a race and it is the runner that can overcome their mental roadblocks that will perform better that day.
Mental toughness is a real thing when running, whether it is when it is -18*F with the wind howling and snow blowing or 93*F with the sun baking. Your ability to battle through your doubts and that little voice inside that keeps telling you to slow down or stop, does affect both your outlook during the run and how much effort you will put into a race. I saw more than a few runners give up, walk, or slow way down during conditions that were not great by any stretch of the imagination and I saw even more that did not. Unfortunately, I was one of the one’s that gave in to the conditions.
Confidence in your body’s ability to do something without breaking down is necessary to race well. If you have had some medical issues recently and you are not sure how the body will respond to racing and weather conditions, you will subconsciously and consciously become much more conservative with your willingness to go into the the “hurt locker”. I have been struggling with some medical stuff over the last few weeks and had zero confidence in my ability to push the pace, especially in the heat and I had visions of being hauled in one of the ambulances sitting on the sidelines – that definitely took my focus away from running faster – even if the weather condtions had been better.
However, sometimes our perspective suddenly comes from a different direction and all the above gets thrown out the window. Instead of getting all pissy about finishing with a crappy for us time, worrying about all those people who normally finish behind us, finishing in front of us or that we couldn’t get our mind or body to cooperate and push harder in the conditions that the race was run.
I was happier and yes, a little relieved that I had finished standing up, was able to walk around, talk and laugh with other runners. It was a race that despite not meeting my expectations still gave me confidence with where I am at with my running. Which in turn provided me with more than a little motivation and the knowledge that it was okay to start training for something again.
Which is all great and fine, but for a short period of time, I was just happy that I ran – maybe that is enough sometime. I am beginnng to wonder if all the other stuff I do with my running makes me forget that there is joy in just running, doing the best I can on that day and having fun around other runners.
At some point I have a feeling that my racing will evolve to that point, but I am not quite there yet.
So until I get there, it is probably time to get back to my reality and find a decent 5K training plan and start training again, thinking about ways to make my self mentally tougher, what running shoes or gear are going to help me run better and keep whining about the weather.
All to ensure other runners don’t pass me quite as often…but for just a minute I think I saw my future when it comes to racing and running.
You know it might not be so bad, just not quite yet.