On Saturday I beat my all time best 5 km run time by 20 seconds and achieved a goal I had been working towards for over a year: run 5 km in under 30 minutes (my parkrun time this week was 29 minutes and 44 seconds). I have done it once previously on a different course (29 minutes 58 seconds) but almost died in the process and had a small vommi at the finish line. That was in April and I had been unable to match this time, until now.
The funny thing is, while I was running it on Saturday, I was thinking to myself how crap I was at running and I didn’t know why I kept trying. People kept overtaking me and my friend, who I introduced to parkrun and who was doing his first ever 5 km, had outstripped me in the first km.
I hadn’t been watching my pace very closely to begin, only for the last 2 or so km and thought I was way over the 30 minute mark. It wasn’t until I rounded the last turn, saw the finish line and saw I was at 28 minutes that I realised I was going to make it in under 30 minutes.
How did it manage to surprise me so greatly? The run hurt, yes, I was definitely pushing it. My new way of thinking is ‘yes, this hurts. But you know what, if you slow down it’s not going to hurt less, you will just finish with a worse time. So just keep going and you won’t feel any worse.’ It works quite well, I think the interval running I am doing is helping there.
So why did I believe I was doing so badly? My mistake, I believe, was to compare myself with other people.
I compared myself to my friend, who finished in 25 minutes, and who is athletic. He rides, does all sorts of extreme sports and is generally an athletic person (he once paddle boarded for over 12 hours straight just because he wanted to know if he could).
I compared myself to my husband. The day before I did parkrun my husband did a 14 km run ‘just to make sure’ he would be able to run City2Surf. My goal for City2Surf is to scrape through under 90 minutes after a relatively intense 10 week training program. He did the same distance, with absolutely zero preparation, in 80 minutes. I was both impressed and depressed by this.
I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Would I have done a faster time if I had felt more confident and secure in my running capabilities? Or was comparing myself to faster runners motivating me to try a little harder and make me push a little bit faster?
I think I need to just be comfortable with the fact that, no, I am not an ‘athletic’ person. Every single physical activity I have ever done or tried I have had to work HARD for and have been CRAP at to begin. Sweat, pain and often humiliation (snowboarding in particular I could tell you some stories) occur whenever I try something physically demanding.
That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, or push myself or be proud of my achievements.
I am still a runner and no one, no matter how fast they run, can take that away from me.