Throughout my running career, I’ve never been the star. I look at myself as consistently being the third- or fourth-guy on a cross-country team. Always going to be at or near a certain time. And yet, fully knowing that there was not going to be a lot of variance in my performance, until the last few years I’ve been a wreck before a race, worrying about it.

Someone I know from her blog recently ran a disaster of a race. She’s been searching for the whys. Thinking of this during this afternoon’s run, it dawned on me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a disaster of a race without some reason. I’ve had good races, I’ve had bad races. Through it all, though, I’ve been pretty consistent. Looking at NYRR results, with their handy age-graded figure, shows this. The outliers: always a specific reason. There was the Rye Derby run the afternoon after a night in which I had far too much to drink at my 25th law school reunion. The recent Manhattan Half and last year’s Scarsdale 15K showing how undertrained I knew I was going in. My first track race in 30+ years: a 1500 at Icahn in which I was overwhelmed by the shocking novelty.

So this got me thinking, see, about whether one reaches a level of consistency. Not, though, one that comes easily and not one that necessarily satisfies. Having worked hard to get to that level, one must continue to work hard to stay there in this sport. You can’t just mail in a result, although I sometimes wish I could. Those convenient NYRR age-graded results display a consistent upward trend before a consistently lower level resulting from injury breaks and the process of rebuilding. That merely affords me a target of pushing myself to return and having approached to raise things a bit more and a bit more again. Ratcheting things up. (As I noted here, Jack Daniels has pointed out that if one runs a race in a particularly good time, it’s not a fluke.) I don’t know if this will happen. The challenge is to do the best I can to make it so.

Being a consistent third-man can be a good thing.