Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Running For Yourself

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.” - William Blake
       "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." - Aristotle
My 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.


  1. Once again, amidst all the turning points that have turned my life upside down and inside out in these last 3 months, you help me put things (far, far beyond running) into perspective. I must constantly be reminded by that inner voice of mine to "know thyself". Not the self others expect or wish me to be, or even the self I think I must be looking at myself through their eyes. But the self that I truly am. Ah, but I digress in my philosophizing on a cold Michigan evening. Good running to you, friend!

  2. Love it! I was just reading today about a woman bragging about Running 65 miles for last week. Then, in a couple of her post later complaining about being tired, and having to go see a dr about her fatigue and something about thyroid. Duh, you run that far, you will be tired. I am sure part of the miles is just trying to keep up or exceed other runners on "dailymile".
    You hit it again, Just "run for yourself at your own pace" at least that is what I got out of it. Thanks, nice one.

    1. Yes, and I need to be satisfied with what I do, and what I aim for. What others do and choose is up to them.

  3. A perspective I needed to hear. As my first race of the calendar year approaches, and I remain on injured reserve, I have to remember that I am on a greater path than the races. This is not all about a PR or how many races I can do in a year. I'm doing this for me, for my sanity and for my health. If I don't win my age group three times a month, or PR in every race, it's OK. The competitive side of me takes over all too often, and my body finally said ENOUGH! Thanks for the reminder that we're all in this together. Happy running!

    1. And the fact is that I'm not going to PR at every race. Does that mean that those races are meaningless? If I take the time to pay attention, I learn something new on every run, and at every race. If all I'm concerned about is how others will see me, then that opportunity is lost in a haze of unjustified self-judgement.

  4. I SO loved reading this post.

    I am a definite Daily Mile addict and I love my running friends group on Facebook. It has added a dimension of community that I did not have, even living in a real life community that is actually full of both World Class, Olympic athletes and serious amateurs.

    Earlier this year, I watched a group of runners sign up for race after race after race. I was encouraged to join them. Having had the hip surgery and being not quite recovered, I declined. Many other women joined up spending a great deal of money to run Half marathons each weekend, or longer. I finished up my PT, trained smart with my coach and set out some goals. The "group" then started to make fun of my PR goals!!!! (who does that?) I was bothered by this, and started to avoid these people.

    Just a week ago, the same 5 women ran another half Marathon. All 5 now have serious running/overuse injuries. (SHin splints, ITBS etc). They continue to post races and egg each other on to "run or limp across the finish line". One finally pulled out, and was ridiculed for not being "tough"!

    I'm well on my way to my PR for the Half. It won't be fast, but it is the goal I set for myself. i decided it might make some people giggle. (I was told one racing season and all I will have is one medal?) But this is what I wanted most.

    Once I got clear on my running journey, I found it a lot easier to focus in and find people that support MY journey, rather than imposing their ideas about my journey.... It's a good settled feeling isn't it?

    Don't let anyone dictate your journey, you have the best plan for you.

    1. I must say, that's a pretty extreme example of what I'm talking about. You need to get as far away from these women as possible! Support and encouragement is one thing - but that kind of group-think and do it or die is a recipe for disaster.

  5. You, my dear lady, are not only one of my running heroes- but you're also one of my blogging heroes! I LOVE to come and hear your perspective and thoughts on things!
    I, personally, am a daily mile freak! I love to keep track -using "I Just Ran" on facebook! I would LOVE to run a half marathon- but keep second guessing myself, I have very little support in my running (other than my husband, he is very supportive) and find that I start to lack ambition without a certain degree of "YEAH GO LACEY" from the peanut gallery...which is something I have to overcome and deal with.

    1. Well, of course you can do whatever you set your mind to (assuming it's reasonable, and you do the necessary training) and if a little "Yeah Go Lacey" helps, then that's good. We all need support and encouragement. But sometimes I think that can go too far. Ultimately we do have to look to ourselves for that motivation. No one can run the race for us. It really is all up to you, and that's one of the things I find so empowering about running. I do it or I don't do it. When I succeed, it's because I did it. And when I fall short...well, that's mine too. "Go Lacey Go!"

  6. Thought-provoking post....While starting my blog has kept me focused on my goal for more than a year now, I don't completely like the influence that blogging has had on my running. I feel ashamed of myself that I like easy runs (because hard-core runners who meet their goals among the bloggers I follow all profess undying passion for hard, long ones). I see my weekly and daily mileage not stacking up. I see my paces not being as fast as the runners whose successes I envy. And so begins the second- and third- and fourth-guessing of the way I'm going about things.

  7. Well, if it's any consolation I love LSD ;) and I even love recovery runs where I run so slowly that I might as well be walking, and I take every opportunity to stop and listen to the birds, and watch the clouds float overhead. I like hard runs too, in their place. But mostly I just like being outside moving through the world. And so if I don't post my time on dailymile it may be because I just don't give a hoot and I'm not paying attention to that.

    1. Thanks for this! I like the technology-free slow ones too.

  8. Excellent post. Congratulations on your success! Thank you for sharing!


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