I don’t know what I don’t know. It is on this premise that I may also conclude: I cannot be certain of what I am capable of.
I’m getting faster. Slowly.
When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon almost a year ago with a time of 4:53:22, I felt sufficiently put in my place. Having run my 20 miler a few weeks before in under 3 hours and 30 minutes, I was sure I had 4:30 in the bag, no problem. After all, the last 6-7 miles of that run were all under 10 minutes, many under 9:30–I was going to push through those extra 6.2 miles and finish just as strong at the main event.
Race day was different. The wall was real. The rain was real. The pain was real.
The more distance I have from that race, the more proud I am of it. I gutted it out. I kept going through indescribable physical and mental anguish. When I crossed that finish line, I proved to myself what I feared might not be true: that I am a person who doesn’t give up on her dreams.
With all that, still, I wasn’t thrilled with my time. But my race experience was so that I doubted I’d ever be able to improve upon it much. This year, with zero desire to run another marathon anytime soon, or to have my life revolve around running, I set out to try and better my times in the shorter distances.
You can imagine my frustration as I’ve come to realize that forgoing distance for speed has it’s own challenges. As I’ve made some gains (although not as much as I’d like) in the the 5 and 10k distances this year, the work to achieve them has left me completely in awe of people who run marathons in 4 hours and under. Rest assured, I am in awe of everyone who runs marathons–especially those who run more than one. But as I, a fairly athletic person, have tried to get faster, I’m blown away by the fitness required to run at these paces for miles and miles.
There have been moments this year where I’ve felt very limited. When I finished my 10k averaging a 9 minute mile (my goal was to finish in the 8s), I shook my head and thought, God just made some people fast–you aren’t one of them!
To some degree, I do believe this is true. I’m not naturally speedy. It takes a lot of work for me to run consistently at a pace that others might consider a jog.
But so what? If something is in our hearts–if we feel compelled to do it, but it’s hard–does that mean we weren’t meant to try? I don’t think so. I think it’s that pull in our gut to try something we should listen to. The ease of completion is secondary and far less telling.
I’ll admit, after my last “failed” 10k I did think, why do you do this? Why do you care? Just run. If you’re never going to be really fast, why try so hard to be “average”?
That pessimistic voice left pretty quickly–shortly after I got something in my stomach following the race. I know myself. I know why I try to improve. I like to be challenged. I like pushing myself to do things I find difficult. I don’t mind “failing”. I’ve done it so often in my life, I’ve learned to welcome it, knowing it has been and will undoubtedly remain one of my greatest teachers. I think when I try for things that don’t necessarily come naturally to me, I learn more about who I am, and what I’m made of. As I peel back the layers, through these challenges, these qualities are not just revealed to me, they become real tools that are available as new obstacles arise. I learned through training and completing 26.2 miles that I’m gritty as f*$%. Now, as I attempt to create a business for myself, and it’s hard, and I’ve yet to procure any clients, I reach for that grit, day in and day out. I keep at the work of building. I take steps without certainty of where they will lead. I believe I’m moving forward, even when the finish line is nowhere in sight.
As I began thinking about closing out this year and putting a positive spin on what I’ve largely concluded to be mediocre athletic gains, a couple of things have happened. About a month ago, I ran for two minutes straight at a pace of 6:40. Since then, I’ve run for three minutes straight at a 6:33 pace. That was at the end of my run, and then I cooled down for several minutes at an 8:50 pace. I hadn’t done that before. I’d never been able to hold a pace like that for more than a minute or so. And I’ve never been able to “cool down” at my goal race pace.
On a whim the other day, I decided to poke around in my Garmin stats. Since my most recent 10k was slower than my last, I figured I’d punish myself a bit by looking at the numbers. However when I looked over all my runs over the past couple months, I was shocked by a different stat. Although my times weren’t always improving, my heart rate was getting lower. Although it doesn’t always feel like it, my body is not having to work quite as hard to get close to those goal times as it was before. My fitness is in fact improving.
These two little things is all it’s taken–running a few fast laps and achieving a steadier hear rate. All of the sudden, I’m curious again. What can I do? What am I actually capable of? If I can manage to add a little patience to my work ethic–how might I be running a year from now? It’s exciting to wonder.
Now, in this moment, my old 10k goal feels almost constricting. What if I just do the work? I’ll run hard, rest hard, eat well, take care of my body, maintain my spirituality–and then just trust in what’s always been true: that some day, I’ll look back in retrospect, and be blown away at the progress, the growth…the life. What if I just carry on–pausing at my failures only briefly–like road stops, ones I can expect because life has taught me about the need to refuel and even reconfirm or change my direction from time to time.
Goals are fabulous. But I have a feeling if I stick to them rigidly, I’ll be limiting myself. The universe’s imagination is far greater than mine. The more often I can remember to run it’s course–not my own, the better off I’ll be.
Hey there, thanks for reading! I’m so glad we’ve found each other in the blogosphere, let’s connect on Instagram as well! I’m entering a new phase so while I’ll post here every so often, this site is a bit under construction. However I am up and “running” on IG daily ; ). Please come find me! x
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