“As runners, we all go through many transitions — transitions that closely mimic the larger changes we experience in a lifetime. First, we try to run faster. Then we try to run harder. Then we learn to accept ourselves and our limitations, and at last, we can appreciate the true joy and meaning of running.” Amby Burfoot
There is a lake near my house that originally wasn’t a lake, then it was a lake, then it wasn’t, then it was a lake again.
Let me explain. Over 40 years ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources decided that installing a dam on Hammer Creek to create a lake for recreation would be a good idea.
The dam was constructed and the resulting lake was a relatively small one, good for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
Several years ago, flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee caused irreparable damage to the dam. The lake was drained. Hammer Creek went back to something resembling its original state.
A local group called Save Speedwell Lake, however, raised over $6 million through donations and grants, enough to dredge the lake bed and rebuild the dam. The lake slowly filled once again and now there is a lake where there once wasn’t one, (then there was, then there wasn’t).
That’s a long backstory to describe the location of a run that my hubby Bill and I did with our friend Al last week.
The roads around Speedwell are narrow, curvy, hilly country roads with very little traffic. There is a five-mile loop and a six-mile loop that we sometimes run around the lake. We opted for the longer loop and set out on a beautiful, sunny spring morning.
Each of us had just run a 10k road race the weekend before. Bill and I ran Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond, Virginia and Al ran the Cherry Blossom 10k in Philadelphia with another running friend.
Now, Al and I are competitive. Yes, we compete with each other (we have always finished races with close to the same finishing times), but more generally, we like to do well in our respective age groups while racing.
Al is one age group older than me and of course, a different gender. He trains hard for specific races.
Al was the friend who convinced me to run The Hyner View Trail Challenge 25k last year, probably the most difficult race I have ever run. He ran it several times but not the year I participated. Each time he ran it, he traveled about 45 minutes north of our hometown to train on hillier terrain, running hill repeats over and over to simulate the never-ending hills in the race. He did several very long runs to improve his stamina.
My training for the race last year was more, um…relaxed. I did some trail running with Al before the race, and some fairly long runs, but nothing out of the ordinary. That may be why I believe it was the toughest race ever.
I don’t usually train with one race in mind. I go with a more general approach and train for the upcoming season. If I have a bunch of long races, I will do more long runs; if shorter races dominate my calendar, I will do more speedwork.
Last weekend, the from our respective races that were somewhat disappointing. I wrote in an earlier post about planning to run my 10k at a “comfortably hard” pace, not an all-out effort and that is exactly what I did. After the race, however, I was disappointed in my time and my age-group placement (11th out of 578). Al ran a slow 10k; he complained that his legs felt heavy and it just was not his day to race.
Our conversation turned to our thoughts about whether to work hard to try to maintain some modicum of speed as we get older or accept the fact that our aging bodies just can’t go as fast as they used to.
This is a subject on which I perpetually waffle. On one hand, I am extremely stubborn (as my hubby can attest to). I am not going to slow down without putting up some kind of a fight. I actually enjoy pushing myself on the track and on tempo runs (runs done at a speed that feels comfortably hard, for my non-running friends).
On the other hand, comparing my race times with those of 10, five, or even two years ago is a recipe for frustration and regret. It is better to accept my body the way it is right now and feel grateful I can run at all.
It’s hard to know when to hang on and when to let go. How do you know when to do which?
I wrote in an earlier post about the benefits of having dreams, but letting go of an unrealistic dream is not easy. It almost feels like grief. We must do it in stages, the last of which is acceptance. Holding on to an unattainable dream can bring about anger, resentment, and feelings of failure.
When you no longer hold a dream in your heart, it is time to let go. You can’t force something to feel right when it is wrong.
The trick is to be able to distinguish between a dream and an expectation. Dreams are powerful, positive, uplifting. When a dream turns into an expectation, it weighs you down, it makes you dissatisfied. When a dream begins to feel like a chore, it is time to move on to a new dream.
So, where do I fall out on the conflict between accepting my limitations and pursuing some speed? That’s the great thing about running road races – you don’t have to make a choice.
While I will never hit the speeds I did in the past (this is one dream I must let go of), that’s what age groups are for. I am not competing with twenty-somethings; I am competing against other women my age, and I still want to be competitive among women my age (this is one dream I can stubbornly hang on to).
As long as competing doesn’t feel like a chore, and it doesn’t, I can hold on to that dream.
Al told me about a fun way to do speedwork on the roads – run fast between one set of telephone poles, then slowly between the next set and keep alternating for several miles. I think I will give that a try.
As the Electric Light Orchestra put it so well, “Hold on Tight to Your Dream“. You can give a listen here.
Go out and chase your dreams no matter how crazy it looks. – Shanice Williams
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