Cowboy Hazel posted a comment in which, in addition to correctly taking me to task for an indelicate and inaccurate statement, he related his recovery from the disappointment of his realization that he wasn’t as fast in a mile as he wanted to be.

It was humiliating for me at the time because I was so caught up in the idea of being a fast runner and when I realized that I wasn’t nearly as fast as I wanted to be (or thought I was), I had this whole feeling like, “Why should I even bother? I’m never going to win these races. I’m never going to come close. I should just give up.” But then, it hit me, it’s not about the time that you get when you finish, it’s about how much you enjoy the run.

I can relate to these feelings, particularly since I started in this running business long ago and in high school ran the 440 and 880 (as well as XC). (I didn’t run seriously in college and really took it up again when I started law school.) I am so much slower now. And I often have similar feelings during shorter road races when I too wonder “what’s the point.”

Hazel:

So, I realized, for running to be worthwhile to me, it has to be something that gives me enjoyment (because it’s not a job) — and it has to be more enjoyment than the pain and hard work that goes into it.

No one reading this is going to set the world afire with her running. (If you’re Ryan Hall and reading this, please drop me a line.) We all do it for the enjoyment and we all have different criteria for what this enjoyment is. While we may fall into different categories of runners (like my “runner” vs. “racer”) we all share the pleasure of going out an putting one foot in front of the other again and again when, face it, there are plenty of easier ways to spend our time.

For us, there’s a certain amount of perverse “enjoyment” in the “pain and hard work” or we wouldn’t be doing it, even if it’s enjoyment simply when we’re done and have the aura of satisfaction which lasts until the next time we have to — “have to” because that’s what we are and that’s what we do — do it again.

All this is a round-about way of saying something about racing on the track. I’m a proponent of running some track races, as well as XC races, during the year simply because they are fun. Not easy, fun. Yet it’s incredible how few people head out to Icahn Stadium for the NYRR outdoor track races. I try to get out there at least once a year.

I tend to end up at the back of the pack in whatever the race is. The leaders disappear into the distance and in a 3000 I start worrying about being lapped. On a 400 meter track. I feel so slow. And to many I am so slow.

I enjoy it, however, because I set simple goals for myself. My competitive juices flow as I get near enough to the finish to have confidence that a bit of kick won’t leave me short of the line. But I’m just struggling for myself, as are most of those out there. But struggle I do, as you can see from this photo from Sue Pearsal’s site (taken by Armando), as I try to cross the finish of a mile in barely under 5.

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