When I started running I started buying running magazines.
They frequently contained sentences along the lines of “running at a fairly easy 9 minute mile pace” which made me snort, and then feel like a failure as I looked at my Nike+ stats average of 10’40” a mile.
Quotes from an assortment of blogs.
I’ve since bought my lifetime average on Nike + down to 10’15”. On some short runs I’ve made it under a 9 minute mile, but generally I hover around the 9’45” mark. So after 10 months of running, a 5k and 2 10k races and a total of over 350 miles run, I still feel like a failure.
This Sunday I am running the Trowse 10k, I’m looking forward to it (as long as it doesn’t snow), but from the moment I signed up I’ve been quite keen to run it in under an hour. This is looking increasingly unlikely. In February life got in the way of doing much training, and March hasn’t been much different. There’s been a lot of travel, working till 5pm then driving 150 miles to a new place and repeating the procedure for most of the week doesn’t leave much time for running, then I had a sickness bug which put me out of action for almost a full week.
Then last Thursday I went out for a 5k run, just to check I still could after being ill, I was starting to feel a bit stressed about not having trained for the 10k and not doing it as quick and hitting my goals, then suddenly I thought.
Why do I care?
I run because I enjoy it, I run because it keeps me fit and I run because I love the feeling of running. I’m 33, I’m slightly overweight, I’m self employed, I travel a lot and I have a busy job that frequently involves working odd hours, including evenings and weekends. I’ll never be the fastest or the fittest, my life just doesn’t allow for that. I make an effort to fit running and other training in because I enjoy it and because I want to be fitter, but its part of my life, not my whole reason for being.
So why do I care if I haven’t racked up enough miles this month or I’m not running as fast as I somehow feel I should?
If I only manage to go running 3 times in March, who’s going to tell me off? If it’s dark, cold and rainy and I decide that staying home with a hot chocolate is far more fun will I be in trouble? If I only ever run 10:30 miles, who cares? I’m fairly certain you don’t. The rest of my family is frankly astonised every time they see me in a pair of trainers and most people have no idea what constitutes a “fast” mile or a “slow” mile. There’s no place in Rio waiting for me, and I’m certainly not expecting to be on the winners podium, so what does it matter how quickly I finish, as long as I do.
When I spend my time reading blogs and magazines the focus is so often on longer, further, faster and more. Till in the end the reason I was so happy when I discovered running is completely lost in the struggle to make sure I’m hitting some imaginary target that will make me a “runner” and mean I belong alongside all those serious looking skinny people in singlets and shorts, while I’m wearing lipstick and mascara to run in.
Part of the fun is improving and setting a new challenge. But that’s not the whole story, some of the fun is that feeling that you CAN do it. Sometimes I’m astonished to think I’ve run for a whole hour without stopping when less than a year ago 2 minutes seemed insurmountable, I feel on top of the world, strong and unstoppable and it’s an amazing feeling.
The fact is that if running stops being fun, eventually I’ll stop doing it, and trying to force myself to stick to a schedule that doesn’t fit my life, or go faster than my short, fat little legs really want to will surely stop it being fun quicker than anything else.
So I’ve decided that I DON’T CARE!
If I run 10k in 50 minutes or 90 minutes, if I only manage to run once this week because of travel, and late night working, if I stop and walk up that stupid steep hill at the end of my route then so be it.
As the weather warms up and the nights get lighter maybe I’ll run more often, maybe I’ll run further. Maybe I’ll run slower beacause it’s hot, or faster because it’s cold. When I have more time I’ll fit in those speed sessions, and when time is tight I’ll go for a slow run that’ll make me feel amazing.
What matters is that I run, and that it feels fantastic.