I have been running solo lately. My usual training partner (and husband) Bill has been sidelined for the past week with huge, painful blisters on the bottom of his feet. Because there is only one week to go before we are scheduled to run the Marine Corps Marathon, this concerns me. I must have faith the blisters will heal quickly or spend seven sleepless nights between now and next Sunday.
Bill and I have fallen into the pattern of doing leisurely runs together since he has retired. It’s nice, comfortable. We can chat, look at the scenery (OK, only I look at the scenery; Bill famously does not look around when he runs), and run when we feel like it now that we are both retired.
Then I did two runs this week which shocked me.
On Tuesday night I ran on a beautiful trail along the Susquehanna River (and wrote about in this post) and just yesterday I ran in town. On both runs, I allowed my mind to drift and thought about topics other than running; on both runs, I was astonished when I checked my pace.
Without trying, my comfortable pace returned to the place it had been several years ago, before my two-year struggle with a hamstring injury.
It made me think of something Bill said to me while we were at the beach.
We visited the South Carolina beach last week with eight of our closest friends. Eight of the ten of us who shared a beach house are golfers. Only my running friend Nancy and I do not golf. While the others went golfing, Nancy and I went to the spa for a massage, but that’s another story.
Bill has always been an avid golfer. He used to play weekly with friends and taught two of our three boys to play when they were young.
I’m not sure what changed, but several years ago, Bill’s passion for golf began to wane. Maybe it was because he was spending so much time running. Maybe it was because of an injury. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but he went from playing golf once or twice a week to playing once or twice a year.
Of course, his game suffered. His average score increased by about 20 strokes. It kind of snowballed; when he didn’t play well, that made him want to play even less.
Now that he’s retired and has more free time, he would like to golf more often, but the effort it would take him to improve his game to the point where it would be more enjoyable for him is daunting.
After a particularly rough outing at the beach, he told me he had a decision to make: either put the necessary time into improving his game, adjust his mindset to become satisfied with higher scores (unlikely), or give it up altogether.
That statement resonated with me.
I realized that is how I feel about running, or maybe more accurately, racing.
Oh, I know I cannot expect to have the race times I had ten years ago. I understand and accept the fact that I will slow down as I age. It’s just that my pace slowed so precipitously I don’t believe it was all caused by age; I think I can do better, run faster.
I train differently now than I did a few years ago. When I run with Bill, all of our runs are comfortable, there are no tempo runs, no intervals, no hill runs.
Bill runs mostly to maintain fitness. He likes to be able to eat (almost) everything he wants and not gain weight. He is not particularly interested in racing, but does it because I like to race. I like fitness too, but I am, and always have been, competitive. I don’t like feeling as though I could be doing better.
Maybe I like competition in races because I have actually had some success, at least in my age group. Competing is more fun, of course, if you sometimes have favorable outcomes.
Yes, I realize that competition is an extrinsic incentive and that I should be more content with intrinsic rewards like the personal satisfaction of running a good race, blah, blah, blah, but I like to win!
So. What to do?
Running with my hubby is not going to go away. It has been too much fun for both of us, creating a stronger bond between us by giving us many shared experiences.
After the marathon, however, I believe I am going to begin adding a “quality” workout once or twice a week to my training.
I have a time goal for a half marathon which I would like to achieve that I’m not ready to share with everyone just yet. Let me see what happens as the year progresses.
Maybe as I’m huffing and puffing, struggling to move this old body around the track, I will change my mind and resume my current habit of comfort running. But maybe I will surprise myself.
The only way to find out is to give it a try.
Here is a summary of my week in workouts:
- 10 minutes of hamstring and glute stretches daily
- Three sets of two-minute forearm planks Monday, Wednesday, Friday
- 10 – 12 pushups Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
- Monday – 20 mile long run
- Tuesday – 3 mile run
- Friday – 5 mile run
- Saturday – 4 mile run