Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Case of Mediocrity

I really don't care about winning medals as much as my previous posts imply.

Not that it wasn't awesome to win a medal, but I really don't consider myself to be racing against anyone but myself. I have no expectations of awards or prizes and I don't really care about how many other runners I finish ahead of. (Though I admit that I do desperately hope that there were more than 3 people in my age group on Sunday so that my award isn't completely a sham. I do after all, have one last-place medal to my name from a very small 5K.)

I'm out there trying to run the best race I can, and if I can tell myself after crossing the finish line that I've done so, I'm happy with that. My 23:55, bronze medal-winning race on Sunday is my 2nd-fastest 5K ever, but I would rather have run a 23:41 (one second under PR) and finished out of the medals in a bigger field.

Last week, I pulled this quote out of an article about Sammy Wanjiru's victory in the 2010 Chicago marathon:
Sammy Wanjiru has run faster races, he has won more celebrated races, but never has he run a more inspiring race. He proved that even when you are not at 100 percent, you can still give 100 percent of what you have.
I do think I've done this in most of the races I've ever run. Sure, I walked more of the marathon than I wanted, but I was coming off an injury that had cost me my longest training runs. I dogged the Kelly Shamrock 5K on purpose this year because I was tapering. I took the 2008 Orioles Advocates 5K, my first race that year after a bad winter of running, really easy because I knew I was under-trained. I didn't push for my goal time in the Broad St. Run because it was 30 degrees warmer than I anticipated. I've run some 5Ks where I just didn't feel great and was several minutes slower than usual. Still, I think every time I've toed the line, I've run the best race that I could possibly run at the time. I'm satisfied that I've given 100% on race day. This spring it's paid off with three 5Ks in which I did very good or great (by my standards).

The problem, for lack of a better word, is that I know I can be faster. I've always given my best effort on race day. It's the things I haven't done on other days that are the issues. The one place I really feel like I failed in my marathon training was my complete inattention to the speedwork (track workout) portion of the training program. Even before my knee acted up and made it a risk that I didn't feel comfortable taking, I only bothered to attend one of the weekly track workouts. Though I don't really care about how fast I am on marathon day, that track work might have given me a little more endurance to run more of those last four miles. (Instead of pretty much having to alternate running and walking for a few minutes at a time). It would almost certainly lower my 5K times and is probably my only shot at my goal of a sub six-minute mile at Harrisburg.

I've ignored it. I've settled for mediocrity. On one hand, that's ok. This is a hobby. I need to keep it enjoyable (or as enjoyable as possible in the humidity, at least. Ugh!). Adding speedwork will probably take away 1 regular run, and I've had enough trouble getting those in due to a busy work schedule, let alone getting back in a good lifting routine and reacquainting myself with my old bike as I'd planned.

I don't think there's anything wrong with my current approach. I've been unscientific and maybe undisciplined, but I think it's been an honest effort. Running means different things to different people and I think the relaxation and stress relief aspect of it has been more important to me than the competition. With the exception of one summer where all I did was run a 3-mile course over and over again, finishing longer-distance races has generally been more important to me than how fast I got to the finish and my training has reflected that even if I did love to see how fast I could go on race day. This spring I've fallen back in love with the 5K and have been having a good time in my (so far unsuccessful) attempts at new PR and breaking the 23-minute barrier.

I continue with my current approach, I think I probably need to realize that I'm getting very close to the limit of how fast I'll ever be. If I really care about lowering my PRs and taking these lead legs and occasional bronze medal and turning them into gold, then change is needed.

I know I can be faster, but how badly do I want it? I'm not sure that I really know the answer to that question yet, but it's a month and a half before the Harrisburg Mile and I think that's time enough to do some long-overdue experimenting.

1 comment:

  1. I always tell people (particularly new/aspiring runners) that if you don't already have it or you aren't busting your ass to get it, that you don't really want it... This is true for myself anyway. I'd like to consistently place in my age group in 5ks. But I do NO real speed work. In this instance like does not truly mean want. I don't particularly like this truth, but it's the truth...