“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.” - William Blake
"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." - AristotleMy five year-old knows her mind. She know what she wants and does not want. She knows what she likes and does not like. She is never indecisive. Rarely will she be persuaded to do something she does not want to do unless you have really really good reasons to convince her otherwise. I admire her clear-headedness. In an important way, she is sure of herself - of who she is - though I doubt she's ever (yet) thought about that a whole lot. She simply is who she is. What a wonderful thing to behold.
I, on the other hand, over analyze things - Who am I? What do I want? Am I REALLY doing what I want? I've heard that supposedly these questions are magically answered (or perhaps you're supposed to stop caring about them) when a women turns 40 (Sorry guys. Don't know when this is supposed to happen for you). But, in my experience folks, sorry, it just ain't so.
What I do know: I know I love to run. Okay, that's a start. I know I love my family to Pluto and back. I know I care deeply about justice and fairness and beauty and the good and the right. And that's about as far as it goes, sometimes.
It's not always easy figuring out what YOU want to do, even when it comes to running - something seemingly pure and simple.
Recently, there was a thread on a facebook running group's page about people who run races but don't actually "race" them, or at least claim not to "race" them but rather use these races as workouts. There were some runners who didn't understand this idea of running a race while not always racing it - as in, giving it your best possible effort. Some comments seem to indicate that this was simply inappropriate. That you either race or go home, and anyone who claims this is simply lying. There were many who clearly thought that this was a suspect (at worst) and an inferior (at best) approach to running a race and questioned the "real truth" behind such an aim/claim.
And this got me thinking about the influence of "social media" on running, and how we direct our individual running goals and how others may influence those goals - and this can be beneficial or detrimental. Don't I have the right to run a race anyway I want without someone questioning my motives and sincerity? And even if I am full of hooey, who cares? What difference does it make? Does that change your accomplishments?
I like to run races as part of my training for goal races. I will often plan to run shorter races while training for a marathon. It's helpful for me for several reasons: First, I tend to push myself harder when I'm racing, even if I'm not racing all out. It's easier to get a good tempo run, or lactate threshold run, or marathon pace run done this way. Second, it keeps me in "racing mode" so to speak - where I'm pressed to keep pushing it to the end even when I'm feeling tired. Out on a training run I'm much more likely to give in when the going gets tough. Finally, as a fairly solitary runner with a complicated schedule that makes it difficult for me to run with others, I like being around other runners, and take this opportunity to be more social.
I find this to be a good way to get my racing fix, without racing myself into an injury all the while keeping my eye on the prize, which is the goal race that is most important to ME. But sometimes I have a hard time not pushing it as hard as I can because that's the common expectation.
In places like facebook and dailymile, we have the opportunity to encourage people to pursue their goals, even if those individuals have few "real", as in not 'virtual', running friends they can find like-minded runners and a virtual running community. That's a great thing. But sometimes I wonder if encouragement and commiseration can have a dark side - at least when it comes to social media. Self direction can be challenging, but it becomes more challenging when you hear about all the fantastic and outrageous accomplishments others seem to collect each week, week after week. The miles they run...the PRs they set...the metals...the sponsors...the wins, places, shows...the Half Maniacs (and their numbers)...the Marathon Manias (and their numbers)...and on and on and on.
How many marathons did you run this year? how many miles did you run this week? This year?
For me, social media has brought me, literally, thousands of new, virtual running friends - some of whom I've met, and others I hope to meet. I have the opportunity to hear the tales of other's heroic feats and to some extent this exposure broadens my own horizons. My running world is so much bigger now. I see what others, who are not so different from me, are able to do.
But I must be mindful of my own goals, wants, desires, and needs. Your achievements are your achievements. My achievements are my achievements. My greatest competitor is myself.
But then I hear about all the great races others are running. Oooo, that sounds like fun. I want my part of that. I start signing up for races every weekend. I aim for PRs at every race. And, this is precisely what happened to me at the end of 2011. Add in a sponsor, and some teammates, and suddenly I'm a racing fool...and I've lost my path. MY path! And yes, it all came to a screeching halt thanks to an injury.
Given the number of years I've been running and the number of years I've been on this earth, I should know better then to get sucked into this silliness - and yet, I did. lesson learned - for a little while anyway.