I initially started running to lose weight. I had no real interest in racing or PBs, instead I did it purely to burn calories. And it worked. Running made me look and feel better. But as I carried on I started to sign up to the odd race here and there. I suddenly realised I was pretty good at it in fact. Not amazing, by any stretch of the imagination, but my body seemed to be naturally adept at it. Which, for someone who spent the majority of their lives being relatively crap at any sort of sport, was a pretty big deal.
Soon my running evolved. I was no longer running for weight loss, I didn’t really need to any more. Now I began to care about speed. I trained, like a lot of runners, so that when I did my next race I’d be faster than the last time. The races became my focus. I’d run home from work performing fartlek-style drills by the side of the Thames, remembering my time from the night before and desperately trying to beat it. If I was slower, I’d be annoyed with myself. If I was quicker, I’d feel content.
As races cropped up in the diary I’d get butterflies beforehand. I was worried about not improving my time, especially after all of the work I was putting in. I wanted to beat my last effort. I wanted to prove to myself that I was progressing. Not because I wanted to win I should add. Although I’m a competent runner, a small bulky frame is never going to get me anywhere near the lead runners, not in anything other than a charity fun run at least.
But running has always been about me. I have friends that run because they truly love it. They’ll head out into the countryside for hours, returning with a big smile on their faces like they’ve just been on a spa break. They find it calming and therapeutic. They love the feeling of running, without caring how fast they’re going. I’ve always envied them. To love running – I mean to really enjoy it, is a blessing. Because most of us don’t in that way. Most of us run for a reason. 85% of the time before going out to train I really don’t want to go. But I know I have to. For the races.
My interest in PBs as I’ve continued to run has lessened somewhat. I still care about my times. When I’m fast I will often smile as I cross the finish line. I feel proud of myself for trying. But if I’m slow I don’t mind so much any more. Now when I start a race I’m never worried about it. In my head I always work on the principle that I’m running to enjoy it, and if I feel good during I’ll take the opportunity and push myself. After years of running, I know how much effort it will take for me to get faster, I know I’ll have to sacrifice a load of the other things I enjoy doing, and I’m not prepared to do that anymore. Maybe one day I’ll want the PBs again, maybe I’ll shift my focus on life and be willing to train harder. Maybe I’ll try and win something. Not yet though.
Still I love the races. To the point where I do one most weekends now. I love every detail of them: getting up early and heading to one I’ve never done before, the excitement of all the different types of runners milling around the start, the minutes before the horn sounds, the pain of pushing through the last few miles. But most of all I love crossing the finish line. The feeling of accomplishment after finishing a race and standing there with a medal, knowing that you just gave everything you’ve got. It’s almost become an integral part of my life now. If I don’t have that feeling every week or so, it’s as if I’m missing something.
As a runner I’ve changed quite a bit over the last six years. I’ve had periods of loving it and times where I’ve hated it. It’s always been there though, a constant underlying presence in my life. I don’t know where it will take me next . Maybe an ultra marathon. Maybe I’ll find a love for track running. I haven’t got a clue. All I know is it isn’t going to go away. Probably ever.