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No more personal bests?

21 March 2019

I heard something clever on a podcast lately about running. No, I don’t remember which one. I listen to a lot of podcasts.

“First you run for health. Then you run for time. Then you run for meaning”

Me, I’m right in the middle of the last section: searching for the meaning in running.

I ran a lot of miles in 2018 – 1,627 – and entered 17 races. I did not got a personal best (pb) time in the marathon. I did not get a pb in the half marathon, 10k, 5k, or Mile. It was the same story in 2017.

Every week my lovely running club members post their new personal best times on our club facebook page. “How lovely!”, I post, “You are amazing!”, and I mean it, I do. I am also hugely jealous. All these runners improving their times, feeling like life is on the up and up, whilst my times are getting slower, or staying the same.

I am 43 years old and wondering: am I on the downward slope towards death now?

Reality Check!

I am still running fast. I ran a parkrun 30 seconds outside my pb earlier this year. I am marathon training at the moment and, on a good day, running can still feel great.

At this point you’re either thinking “Don’t worry, Gina, you’re not past your best, you can still get a pb if you work hard enough!”, or “so what? There’s more to running than being fast.”

If we were having this conversation last year, I would have agreed with the first thought. Now, I’m trying to get on board with the second one. Should I embrace slow running?

Slow down and just enjoy it

Before the 2018 London Marathon, when the blazing sun made me want to walk from mile 3 and vomit from mile 10, I told everyone that if I couldn’t run my goal time (already 15 minutes slower than my pb), I would “slow down and just enjoy it”. I am here to tell you, I did slow down, and I did not enjoy it.

Why does slow running equal enjoyment? It’s not an either/or. I’ve had some good slow runs and I’ve had some horrific ones. Dragging out the pain is not a win for anyone. A 5 hour marathon must be harder (for the mind and body) than a 3.5 hour one.

So what’s it all for?

I’ve been running for 20 years. I love running. I am a running evangelist. I am a running ninja. I am a running bore. I run 4-6 days a week, every week. If I haven’t run for two days I feel wrong. If a week passes and I don’t go for a run, I am either ill or injured. Have I mentioned I like running?

It’s normal that there isn’t much room for improvement now. Yes, I could find new time-based goals: age-group pbs, new races, new distances, embrace ultra running… But I think that would be missing the point. Running for meaning, for me, means remembering why I love running.

Running gives me headspace, gets me outside, shows me the seasons passing and the phases of the moon, introduces me to new places, gets me where I want to go, makes me friends, makes me strong, shows me what I’m capable of, helps me believe in myself.

Personal bests are temporary. Running is forever.

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