What has prompted this thought is that today I was supposed to run a half-marathon. After running several 10ks back in the fall, I exuberantly signed up for a trail half-marathon. The training went well, until the end of December, when I tweaked my knee (my bad one) playing the Xbox Kinect at my in-laws over Christmas. Seriously.
So, I took a full week of running off and then eased back into runs, knowing that a half-marathon was out of the question. That was especially true when the dance to which I had committed myself to chaperone changed dates and was the night before said half-marathon.
I chaperoned the dance last night, and all went swimmingly. I warned off a few students who seemed to be enjoying each other's bodies a bit too much on the dance floor, stayed until things were more or less cleaned up, and then crashed into bed around 12:15. This is NOT my ideal pre-race evening schedule. But I managed to wake up, roll out of bed, make a decent breakfast and cup of coffee and then head to the starting line. The one bonus of this particular race was that it was 5 minutes away from our house. The second bonus was that I knew the 'course' well - two loops around the Rose Bowl. And, the final kicker - it is/was super flat. Okay, there are a few VERY slight inclines, but nothing crazy. Based on that last fact, I had hoped to run a fast 10k, but then, as I warmed up and pretended to look really cool and like a "runner", I realized that I did not have my stopwatch and that they did not have timers around the course. Rather than feeling like a runner, I then felt like a rookie who would be walking the course.
Once we got started, I hit a nice stride - one loop done (yeah!), but I had no idea what my time was and everyone in the pack in which I was running cut off to the finish line for the 5K. So, I chugged along the second loop. It seemed like everyone else had finished, but I finally passed this one guy during mile 5 (I love passing people closer to the end!). The finish line was IN the Rose Bowl Stadium, which I experienced for the first time. It was anti-climactic, except that I saw that my unofficial time was one minute faster than my 'fastest' 10k!
Feeling triumphant, I got some water and a snack and then hobbled off to meet Michael, noticing that there were plenty of people still finishing the 10 AND 5K. Later, I checked my 'official' time which was sub 50 minutes! Just barely, but I was/am psyched! Despite all of the shitty factors that could have contributed to a less-than-stellar performance and my expectation to be disappointed, I managed to squeak below what has seemed like an impossible threshold for my running performance. Yeah, happy dance for a PR!
But there is a rub - or maybe many rubs.
First of all, as much as I would like for my next 10K to be sub 8-minute miles, I fear that I will begin to chase these shadows - these impossible goals that I cannot attain. That sounds too much like a quixotic exercise in futility. But maybe I just ran my personal best for a 10K forever? So, should I or could I be happy with this time and then accept that I really should be a jogger and NOT a runner?
The bigger issue that looms larger than the idea of futilely chasing times is the threat of injury. Seriously, I feel fine, no, great, while I run, but then afterwards, my foot, knee, muscles, leg all hurt. Today, I wondered how it was possible that I ran a decently fast 10k for me, but then I limp around the house all day and can't even walk properly? At what point does something that I truly enjoy become more of a bane than a boon?
I don't want to be a crazy running person who has trashed her body over the years, and yet I also wonder if I only have one or two more good years in me, should I just go all out?
Again, these are definitely random thoughts, but I wonder how other people deal with getting older, the body breaking down, and quitting (for a second or third time) an activity they love.