Runner’s like to talk about pace. What improves it? What impedes it? What’s yours? What’s mine? What’s reasonable? What’s embarrassing?
Pwhew, it’s so complicated.
I honestly believe the reason, well one of the reasons, I have continued to run for so many years, is because I don’t worry too much about pace. I do keep track of what pace I’m running. I do wear a runner’s watch that allows me to time my splits. I do keep a runner’s pace-log because I like to compete with myself, but that’s pretty much where it ends.
There’s always gonna be someone faster and someone slower. I don’t sweat it. I embrace it.
Running comes down to enjoyment for me. If I’m enjoying it, I’m good. If I’m not, because of injury or weather or I just need a break, then I allow myself the time to stop until I’m ready to come back to the enjoyment. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Racing (the very word makes me laugh in relationship to my slow-poke pace) is fairly new to me. Other than P.E. mandated running and races in elementary school, I hadn’t participated in a race until I decided, 45 years into my running habit, to train for and run a full marathon. Boy was getting married that year and I thought, “Hey! Things might get stressful, so what better way to decompress than to train for a marathon!”
Yep. My first race was 26.1 miles. The year my son got married. I actually thought that was a swell idea. Momma’s crazy runs deep!
Even then, through those grueling months, through the possible dream-killing injuries I suffered, through the constant doubt (26.1 miles is overwhelming, y’all!), I never really worried about my pace. When folks found out I was running a marathon, one of the first things they wanted to know, after W-H-Y?!, was my run-day pace.
Um, the finishing kind. I had an idea how long it might take me, but it wasn’t set in stone.
To this day, I couldn’t tell you how long it took me to finish. Instead, I remember the knifing knee pain at mile 21, telling myself the only way I’d stop was if I passed out and someone dragged me off the course. I remember the elation from hearing my family through the enormous crowd, cheering for me as climbed dreaded Goat Hill and rounded home. I remember the weight of the hard-earned medal of victory in my hands. I remember bursting into exhausted tears as I laid eyes on Husband after the race. I remember my family and friends standing with me in my overwhelming accomplishment. I remember the lukewarm beer that gave me a post-race buzz. I remember and will never forget that I did what I set out to do: finish.
I also remember being annoyed that it took me longer than I anticipated because of my knee injury, but it was not so much about keeping pace as it was trying to do better than my best training run. That is my running joy. Beating me. Not beating you.
That running year taught me many lessons. The cliche of it being about the journey, not the destination was somewhat true. But, for me, the destination was sweeter than the journey. I knew the statistics were against me. I was one of the lucky ones that made it over the line. And it had nothing to do with pace.
In order for me to even consider what was ahead of me, I knew I needed two vital things: heart and determination. That’s what got me through.
So, when other runners talk about pace, I get it. Each of us runs for our own reasons. I believe runners have to find what motivates them, not others. And if pacing is what lights your fire, BAM!, that’s fantastic.
For those of you who are new to this sport, my best piece of advice is that you find your joy in the miles.
Happy Trails, mah running babies.