known unknowns

I ran my first 5 Mile race yesterday with a finish time of 44:59. Just before the race, I figured I wanted to finish in under an hour. No, under 50 minutes. No, under 45 minutes. And I did. I was happy!

My happiness, however, about 30 minutes later, smoldered into something else.

First: I love when Tyler Durden asks ‘how much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?’ Second: I remember when I finished my first 5K and came in fourth or fifth for my age group. I was stunned. I’d run on my own for about five years previous to that race and hadn’t thought much about whether I was fast much less how fast I was, I just did it. It felt great. Discovering I was pretty fast was… interesting. I ran a bunch of 5Ks that season and always made top 5 for my age group and even made third place in one. I learned about racing. Racing is different to running.

Running puts me in harmony with myself, I think. Or, it recalibrates me. The perfect metaphor is elusive. What I do when I run is respond to the terrain and the atmosphere, pay attention to my footfall and my stride and my pace and my arms and my posture. I listen to my breath. And I think; I philosophize my life. I set running goals, too. A few weeks ago, in fact, I decided to always run at least six miles on my weekend runs. I’d like to run into my 80s or 90s.

Competition sidelines ;-) all of the above, so I’m glad I don’t race very often. When I race, I think about my start, I think about my pace, I think about a strong finish. I think about not overdoing it and benching myself for days, or, heavens forbid, weeks or months. Races can be dangerous for runners who don’t know themselves; I once ran one of those early 5Ks so hard that I damaged my toes and lost both my digital music player and my favorite sunglasses – and I didn’t even achieve a great overall time. I’ve since changed my shoes and stopped running with music and shades and learned to ignore my desire to chase down everyone who passes me from behind.

I cruised through yesterday’s 5 miles. I had no doubt that I could finish. When I saw my first mile time (7:30), I knew that I could finish in under 45 minutes. At that point, the 5K racers took another course. The pack thinned. I started to think about the 5 Mile racers ahead of me and how focused they seemed, how hard they ran. They really worked. At one point, a short woman with a long stride passed me and I thought, ‘should I be doing that?’

I know better than to change course in the middle of the race, so I didn’t. And I did achieve my goals. I even made top five (fifth place) for my age group. But, surprisingly, it wasn’t/isn’t enough, and that’s… interesting.