Runners Tell All: My Proudest Running Moment

I’m mixing things up over here today by participating in a link-up. Not my usual schtick, but y’all know I’m trying to be more of a joiner these days, and that extends to Blogland, too. For the link-up, participants write about a specific running-related topic once a month and share their posts on Amanda’s blog. This month’s topic: my proudest running moment.

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In the four and a half years that I’ve been running, I’ve had lots of great moments. A new year’s resolution took me from not running at all to completing my first 5k. I worked my way up to a 10k, half marathon, and full marathon by the end of that year. There are over 40 races to my name now. I hit the ground running and never stopped! But even when I think about some of my big achievements  and challenging races, pride isn’t the emotion that comes to mind. There’s really only one that makes me feel proud – The Big D Half Marathon in 2013.

It wasn’t a personal record or a new distance for me. In fact, I ran it in 2011 (as the first half I ran by myself) and the full in 2012 (as my first solo full), but the 2013 race makes me swell with pride because it was my best friend Mary Beth’s first half marathon. (You can read the recap I wrote right afterwards here.)

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Running came into our lives at the same time, and we completed our first 5k together in the spring of 2010. I kept on running while Mary Beth focused on other goals. After becoming a mommy, earning her doctorate, and while working full time, she decided that she wanted to run her first half marathon. (See! Total badass!) Even with everything going on in her life, she got serious about running. For months, she pounded the pavement working her way up to being half marathon ready.

Stephen and I made the trip from El Paso to Dallas just for the race. He ran the race on his own, while Mary Beth, her life-long friend Charlotte, and I ran together at MB’s pace.

Half a mile from the finish!

Half a mile from the finish!

Since this was my third time on this course and my tenth half marathon, I felt like an old pro. In my mind, I was the sage old running coach. Truthfully though, Mary Beth didn’t need any running wisdom from me. She was so well-trained and so determined. I felt more like a witness to her big achievement than anything else.

Thinking back on the race now, I remember most of it as being mostly laughs with the final mile or two being a slog.

We had been on our feet for a while, it was heating up outside, the hills were taking a toll. We were tired! Mary Beth never quit on herself. She was smart and took walk breaks, and she was steadfast. I’m getting verklempt over here thinking about watching Mary Beth run across the finish line! Being there for the moment that she became a half marathoner. It was awesome and inspiring. She had a million good reasons to not even attempt this goal or to give up along the way, but she busted her ass. She earned it. She’s setting a great example for her girls about what it means to chase your dreams.

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{From 5k (2010) to half marathon (2013).}

I’ve got a pretty amazing best friend. I’m so proud of her.

Want vs. Will to Work

Let’s go back to the fall of 2001, the beginning of my junior year of high school. I was driving a 1999 Honda CRV, rocking some platform sandals, and trying to grow out my hair.

Me & Stephen at a Christmas party back in '01. (I purposely chose a picture of us all cleaned up; all the others were too embarrassing to share.)

Me & Stephen at a Christmas party back in ’01. (I purposely chose a picture of us all cleaned up; all the others were too embarrassing to share.)

One of my goals that year was to learn Spanish. I distinctly remember telling myself that I was really going to focus in class, and that “This will be the year that it sticks!” Well, the Spanish phrase I most often use these days is, “Mi Espanol es muy mal.” I don’t even know if that’s correct, but I figure the listener has a pretty good idea of what I mean when I say it. Even moving to a foreign country wasn’t enough to get me to learn another language. (I was always too afraid of how awful my German was to attempt to say it to a native speaker even though I would occasionally practice at home.) Sure, I wanted to learn a new language, I genuinely did, but that goal languished in the want stage.

When it comes to athletic pursuits, a lot of it is wants. That sure is the truth when it comes to running: I want to run faster. I want to run farther. I want to run certain races. I want, want, want… I am not anti-want. That little want is the seed, the beginning of what you’ll {hopefully} eventually achieve. When I started running, all I wanted to do was complete a 5k. Four years later, it has blossomed into something so much more, with a box full of medals and bragging rights to go with it.

With Mary Beth! First 5k (2010) on the left, Big D Half (2013) on the right.

With Mary Beth! First 5k (2010) on the left, Big D Half (2013) on the right.

But want isn’t enough. Your wants won’t propel you across the finish line. They might not even get you to the start.

In fact, that want is pretty useless unless it drives you to action.

There are some wants that you can’t get out of your head, that you are so driven that nothing will stop you. Not achieving that goal isn’t even on the table. That’s how I felt when I trained for the Big D Marathon in 2012. I never wondered if I’d complete a long run, I never considered skipping an important workout, everything I ate, so much of what I thought about, even my social calendar all revolved around preparing for that race. I was single-minded.

In that case, it wasn’t just about wanting it; it was about being willing to work for what I wanted.

This is where I’m stalling out right now.

I want to run a faster 5k, but I’m not quite sure it’s a goal I’m motivated to work for it. Considering the fact that I have to cut off 2.5 minutes (that’s a lot for a race that’s only 3.1 miles), it’s going to take effort, time, focus. I’ve been doing the speed workouts but halfheartedly. I’m not excited to run mile repeats; I dread it. I could improve my speed by including cross training and cleaning up my diet. Instead of being excited to do whatever it takes to see growth, I feel annoyed, even resentful. Most days I’d rather sleep in and procrastinate my run. That’s not going to get me to a sub 24:21.

The official photo of me at the Hope For Health 5k last month.

The official photo of me at the Hope For Health 5k last month.

Where does that leave me?

I’m not giving up yet. It could just be that what I’m feeling is a natural dip in my motivation to exercise in general. That’s pretty normal for me coming off of a big goal, and the two marathons I completed earlier this year were mighty big. Perhaps this is part of deployment malaise. Maybe it’s seasonal. (Summer has never been my season.) Whatever it is, right now I’m trying to push through. I’m going to continue to go through the motions with the hope that things will click.

If, in a few weeks, I’m still feeling like this is a goal that I’m not willing to go the distance for, then I’m going to call it quits and focus my energy elsewhere. It’s not very glamorous or inspiring or impressive, but it is realistic. I know that wanting it isn’t enough, you have to be willing to work. I have to be willing to work. I’m not sure yet if I am.

PR-less

2012 was the golden era of my running. If you click on the little running tab up there ^ you will see that in 2012 I earned a PR (personal record) in every distance that I ran. Let me break it down for you:

Took this picture, answered a phone call, and still managed to PR during this race.

Took this picture, answered a phone call, and still managed to PR during this race.

That’s a PR in February, March, April, and May. In the case of some of those distances, the PRs were flying at me left and right. PRing was my schtick. I was good at it, and I liked it.

Alas, the Dash and Dine 5k in May 2012 was the last PR to grace my Garmin. That was almost two years ago, people! TWO! In all fairness, my racing saw a sharp decline following the golden era. I spent 8 months in the racing wasteland that was rural Germany. Even after moving back stateside, the number of races I’ve participated in is nowhere near 2012 proportions. My most recent races (the El Paso Marathon and Bataan) took months to train for. I pinned my PR hopes to the EP full. It didn’t work out to be a new record for me, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it; I fully intend to take another stab at a full marathon PR in due time.

Selfie taken during Big D, April 2012, smashing my previous full marathon finish time.

Selfie taken during Big D, April 2012, smashing my previous full marathon finish time.

Besides, it’s not all about age group placing and PRing. I’d be happy to never PR again if every time I laced up, I felt as good as I did last week. That amazing running perfection only happens once in a while, though. And PRing is fun. I remember walking around after the Austin half marathon (my fastest half to date) feeling victorious! I even talked to strangers. (Y’all know that means I must have been feeling out-of-this-world elation for that to happen.)

I feel like my best chance for a new PR would be in the 10k. I’ve only run four 10ks, and I don’t feel like I topped out in that distance yet. Even though I’d have to run faster than 8:40 for 6 miles, I think a little bit of regular speed work would  push me over the edge. Granted, I have no idea how fast I could run a 10k these days, but I feel like I have a 10k PR still in me.

Unfortunately, it’s not a very popular of a race distance around here. The soonest upcoming 10k isn’t until June, which would give me time to train, but running in June sounds not fun. Plus, it’s two hours away. Four hours of driving for a 1 hour race? Not going to happen.

The scenery at my lightening fast 5k PR. Not pretty to look at, but it sure was flat.

The scenery at my lightening fast 5k PR. Not pretty to look at, but it sure was flat.

My second choice for a PR distance would the half marathon. At the EP full, I ran the first half in 2:07. That would be 10 minutes too slow to PR, but I was trying to pace myself (sort of). Had that been the entire race, I would have pushed myself more. I also happen to think that half marathons are a great distance. I’d love to aim for a sub 1:55.

However, I have no intention of doing that any time soon. We are quickly entering the time of year when the entire state of Texas turns into a frying pan. Even if there was a half around here, and I can’t find any coming up, it’d be miserable. That PR will have to wait.

The secret to my fast finish at the Austin Half, February 2012.

The secret to my fast finish at the Austin Half, February 2012.

Sigh. So I guess it’s you and me, 5k. I love 5ks. That’s probably why I’ve run so many of them. But 5ks are also scary. My PR was run at a 7:50 pace. Even for a mere 3 miles, that sounds really fast to me these days. I’m not sure I could even run 1 mile at that speed. The upside is that 5ks are a dime a dozen around here, so I’ve got options. Not to mention, the short length of the race makes heat less of a factor.

I’m not saying I’m going to go for it. Instead, I’m saying that I’m willing to consider it. I want to see if a 5k PR is even in the realm of possibility and if I’m up for the challenge. A few fast runs around the neighborhood might give me some insight on the possibility of a 5k PR. Who knows, I might scrap it all and just do yoga until fall rolls around.

What is your favorite racing distance? Got any good PR stories? Or advice for throwing up a big 5k PR?

PS Apologies to those of you who read the unfinished version of this post that I accidentally published last night! Zoinks! I guess now you get an inside look at the types of edits I make.