A note from a mediocre runner

I’ve been running regularly for about 10 years, and “competitively” for four. I put competitively in quotes because I fully own that I’m not a fast runner, not one of the elite. I’ve run 14 races, and I’m about to run my 15th this weekend. Two have been halfs, and three have been 10-mile races. I’ve never medaled, or even come close to being in a top five or 10 spot for my age or gender group. But I’ve improved my time for every consecutive race (within each distance category) except once, and for someone that hated running as a kid, I am pretty proud of my results. I may never run a 10k in less than 57 minutes or so, but hey, there was a time where I never thought I’d want to run a race.

So when I read a new WSJ article about how my generation is slower than ever and taking the competition out of racing, and ruining it for the veteran, fast runners, I was a little annoyed. A Running USA spokesman quoted in the article says, “Many new runners come from a mind-set where everyone gets a medal and it’s good enough just to finish.” The piece goes on to talk about how running analysts and elites are concerned that this is a trend for overall competitiveness in American sports and culture, and that the rise of events like Tough Mudders and Color Runs are diminishing the talent and results of top performers.

True, whenever I run a longer distance for the first time, my goal is to finish, or to run the whole thing. And for many new runners and experienced runners alike, sometimes the idea is just to go out and accomplish something you haven’t done before, or to experience a race, whether on your own or with friends or family. Some people run races during extreme weight loss or while battling illness. Some people like me know we will never medal, but set personal goals each time and enjoy races to challenge ourselves to a physical and mental limit not yet crossed — and the reality is that everyone’s limits and goals are different.

In a world where helicopter parents, dance moms and overbearing parents/coaches push kids too far, sometimes to the extent of injury or so that a child ends up hating an activity, shouldn’t we embrace the idea that there are more opportunities for people to take up a sport that’s generally cheap, “easy” in terms of technical ability, and can be done anywhere? Shouldn’t we be grateful that people are having fun while exercising? Even if their goal is to “finish,” isn’t that better than sitting on the couch? Yet one man quoted in the article complains that now it doesn’t seem worth working toward a three-hour marathon time instead of a four, and compares it to sitting down to a marathon TV session. I don’t think it’s fair to knock those of us who are quite happy with those longer times, if that means we accomplished something for us. Not all of us are out running for hours a day, every day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love my half hour or hour-long runs as much as the next person. Perhaps I even love it more. And then I’m happy to sit down to watch a marathon of Law & Order.

For those worried that my generation is slowing you down, maybe you should think about finding new incentives and/or restrictions within the sport. On the one hand, I find it encouraging and inspiring to run in races with elite performers, but if this watering down effect is seriously a concern, then the running organizations and race organizers can surely figure out a way to make sure the best of the best are still being groomed to compete for our country on an international level. Don’t mind me — I’ll just be doing my thing around the neighborhood, one step at a time.

Let it be said, let it be done, etc, etc, etc.

13.1 miles: done

Last fall, I said I wanted to push my limits and sign up for a half marathon. Yesterday, I ran my first 13.1 mile race, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in DC…and I will say that it easily is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, and one of my proudest moments. To some, a half may not seem like a big deal, especially to advanced runners. But to me, it was one more step to Be Fearless this year — especially knowing that at one time, I hated running.

I’ve written before about why I run, and now a little more than two years into doing races, those days when I dreaded going out for some laps seem so long ago. Now, when I miss a couple of days, it feels like I missed a meal, or I forgot to put on my watch. When I hear that friends are signing up for running programs or races, I get excited, because I know how positive they’ll feel once they start. Case in point: my good friend Kim ran her first race, the St. Patty’s Day 8k, a couple of weeks ago, to celebrate one year of being smoke-free, and to end her Couch to 5k program. I was supposed to run it with her, but had to go out of town last minute, but nonetheless, two other friends joined her and crossed the finish line with her. I’m proud of you, Kim! That 8k was my first race two years ago. Additionally, my friend Alanna ran her first race with me, a 10k, this past fall, ran another one soon after that, and signed up for the half with me and two of her friends (that’s all of us in the picture). There was so much excitement when we all met up after finishing the race, all of us proud because we each ran the entire thing, and had inspired each other, and ourselves, to Be Fearless.

After a half of course, comes the talk about what’s next. Some say they’re ready for the next one, some say they would never do a marathon. Some say they were crazy for doing the half in the first place. Everyone has their own comfort level of course. Mine? I immediately thought of signing up for the Woodrow Wilson Half in the fall, and thought that maybe in a year, I could come back to do the full Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. You can do anything you put your mind to, of course. I’m sore, and I was tired, but it was a happy sore and tired. I had never run more than 10 miles a few times, and I went into the race wanting to run the whole thing, and although my legs were all spaghetti for a few minutes after, I enjoyed my French toast and Bloody Mary later because I deserved it!

I said I would run a half, and I did. Etc. etc. etc.

We definitely ran for brunch!