Am I a turtle? I referred to myself as such in my previous post and just had a comment from Susan who tells me I am far from a turtle. Now I could just say “aww, shucks” and leave it at that but she’s right – it’s relative. She’s struggling with her speed at the moment – or rather with the fact that she would like and hoped to be faster – and looks at some of my runs and probably says “what’s she complaining about?”. And I understand that she thinks that – coming from her current point of view.
But the boot, or perhaps more aptly, the running shoe, is often on the other foot. It’s a real toughie, this stuff. I run some of my long runs with a dear friend, Sally, from my running club. Sally is a newbie and has more than 10 years on me. When I met her earlier this year she had never run more than 6M so I convinced her to keep me company for a 10M run. She kept up – with ease. Since then she has gone from strength to strength. She has already run several sub-2hr halves and is now training for the Amsterdam marathon with me. The kicker is that she is training faster and harder than I am – she is keeping up with the Intermediate II program (despite a demanding and more than full-time job) where I’ve had to step back to Intermediate I. It wouldn’t surprise me if she runs a sub 4hour marathon in Amsterdam, something I’m unlikely to ever be able to achieve. She may qualify for Boston – again, something that is beyond me, for a while at least. She is incredibly gracious and modest and is always crediting me for being her inspiration and support but let’s face it – this gal outruns me with ease.
At times, particularly when I’ve struggled with lack of motivation, I have found this really hard to deal with. At other times other runners have made it clear that a “slow” runner like myself is not really a marathoner. I remember telling somebody about a 20M training run I ran last year and his response was “if you’re running at that speed, why on earth do you bother?”..
Steve Runner dedicated a whole episode to a critic of slow marathoners and eloquently made the point that we are all marathoners, despite how long it takes us to get there. I have also heard elite athletes remark with wonder on the ability of mere mortals to just stay out there on our feet for SO long – and they weren’t all being patronising. Susan struggled with a 17 miler yesterday. She did it in several phases and at every point felt like giving up. She was demoralised by her lack of speed and lack of mojo. But she did NOT give up. Where so many would have given up she carried on and made it.
I suppose the truth of the matter is that if you are going to be competitive about it, you have to accept that you will never be the fastest (unless you’re Paula Radcliffe or Paul Tergat but I don’t think they’re reading this). I would consider myself competitive but I would also say that the main competition is within me. Every time I run – however slowly – I win the race against that part of me that would prefer to be welded to my sofa eating a fried potato product. Every time I race I win the race against that part of me that considers myself a quitter. And having gone through life NEVER being any good at any sports whatsover – and this is no false modesty – every single training run is a victory over that part of myself that believes I’m incapable. For those of us who are not elite runners, who fit it in around the rest of our lives and run despite the constraints that other obligations and our physiques may place on us, every run is a win. After all – you could be not running. And you are. So you are – in my definition – a winner, Susan.