Great Expectations

>> Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We'll be in Allentown, PA, this Sunday to run the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. Formerly the Runners World Half, this race is more than just an amazingly well organized event. To us, it marks the one-year anniversary of our (re)entrance into serious long-distance racing. After all, it was just a short year ago that we lined up at the start -- nervous like crazy -- waiting to journey to the other side of 13.1.

But what the prospect of running the race again brings to my mind is expectations. I hope and expect my training will result in a better time this year than last. I hope and expect that my time will be better than the Skunk Cabbage Classic Half Marathon we ran a couple weeks ago. But expectations can often result in feelings of failure if they're not met. So, despite how badly I want to calculate my potential race finish (did you know there are calculators for such a thing?) and stick to it, I'm trying to keep everything in perspective.

In the year since we ran Lehigh, we've both PRed on a number of races. We both ran a marathon. We both have kept up with our training so that we're able to continue longer distances. We both are "still crazy after all these years" with running. These points are all successes. So, for example, if I don't break 1:50 this weekend, I've not failed. If Stephen doesn't smash his 1:19 best, he's still OK. And if you haven't caught on already, this logic applies to you as well!

I don't for a second deny that it's difficult to think this way. It's certainly anti-competitive -- and most runners I know have at least some bent toward being competitive. However, races are certainly about speed and endurance. But the way we see it, they're much more about enjoyment. So many factors contribute to performance on any given day. To expect too much from our bodies is almost cruel. This doesn't mean we can't have goals and work toward those goals. In fact, it's often achieving a certain time that motivates our training. However, if you're finding yourself trapped in the mindset where speed or distance alone equals your athletic-worth, get out . . . and fast!

And remember. Your goal is your goal. Don't chase after another runner's dream. You'll likely get too tired and end up missing your own mark. So, we'll head out this Sunday like we do most race mornings. An easy mile jog to warm up. A little nervousness, resulting in an upset stomach or two. The gun will go off, and we'll begin. But if I don't see a time I necessarily like on the clock at the finish, I won't sweat it. There will be other races and other opportunities to "prove myself" to, well, myself. And no matter my pace, a race is cause for celebration (likely in the form of a frosty beer and slice -- or four -- of pizza).

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