Yesterday I signed up for my first 2017 race: the Wisconsin Half Marathon. The Wisconsin Half Marathon was my first half marathon back in 2014, and I wanted to make it a “streak” race that I did every year until this year, when I had to sit it out because it was 6 days after the Pittsburgh Marathon.
Normally when I sign up for a race that long, I’m not just signing up: I’m making a statement. I’m typically not a person who runs half marathons just for fun, so when I pull the trigger and pay that registration fee, it means I have big plans. Indeed, I have dreams for the 2017 Wisconsin Half
Well…maybe. Sort of. I don’t know. I plead the 5th?
I posted my registration to Facebook with a triumphant declaration that this would be the race where I finally succeed in nabbing one of my longest-standing wish list items: a sub-1:45 half marathon. Granted, I also added the caveat that even if that doesn’t happen I still wanted to have fun re-running my first half marathon in my college town. But still, I felt nervous about declaring that goal on Facebook. I’m not sure why. Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows it’s not some big secret that I’ve been drooling over a sub-1:45 for the better part of two years now. Every runner has a dream that they just can’t get over: for many, it’s a sub-2:00 half, completing an ultra, or qualifying for Boston. For me, for some reason, it’s running the half marathon distance at that elusive sub-8:00 pace. While there’s no guarantee I won’t just immediately start lusting over a sub-1:40 after that, the <1:45 is my “it” thing I just can’t let go of and I know I will feel some form of running closure once I can finally prove that I, too, am capable of it.
The problem is that things are changing. I’m changing. And as much as I want that sub-1:45, I’m just not sure I want it enough. Not more than I want to be able to live the rest of my life without devoting so much time and energy to formal training plans.
I’ve been able to devote myself so fully to training for marathons and improving my times because I have a lifestyle that has allowed for it. A steady job, with set hours, no children to raise, no plans for change and really no unpredictability whatsoever in my life. Going on vacation for a few days or a week was the biggest wrench in my training plans.
But I’m getting to a point where I’m just not sure that improving at a hobby is worth all the sacrifices that need to be made in other areas of my life and the single-tracked mind it requires. I love to run and run well, but running isn’t as huge a part of my identity as it is for other people, and I often find myself feeling like I’m being pulled in many different directions. Running for improvement used to win that tug of war handily, but as this year has gone on, its grip has drastically weakened. I want to improve at running but I no longer want it as much as I want to let go of it and move on to other things for a while.
2017 is already shaping up to be a big year for me. We have a lot of travel planned for the spring, which obviously would interfere with a training plan (that and the nasty winter we’re apparently supposed to get this year…). But I’m also looking to shake up my lifestyle a little bit in the coming year. I turn 30 in March, which as you can imagine, is prompting some introspection as of late, and I’m getting the feeling that after several identical years, it’s time for a change in my life. Since it’s still in the tentative/brainstorming stage, I’m not ready to publicly talk about what that is yet, but let’s just say it’s less of a “change” and more just something that will eat up a lot more of my time and focus, leaving little room or desire to cram in race training. I also want this to be the year that, in the same spirit as I trained for my first half 3 years ago, I try new things with no strings attached. Without the pressure of time goals and improvement, maybe this could be the year I finally run my first trail race or do my first triathlon (SPRINT triathlon, people! 70.3 and 140.6 are NOT in my future!).
Which brings me here: why did I declare a goal of a 1:45 half marathon knowing I won’t have the time – or, frankly, the desire – to devote myself to training for it?
Because I do still want it, and I’m not ready to rule it out as a possibility. I’m already so close. While the best I have managed so far is a high 1:47, I ran that race on a tough day in my peak weeks of marathon training with zero taper, and my fitness indicated that with better weather and fresh legs, I was capable of a 1:45-1:46 – which, regardless of what they say about “woulda coulda shoulda,” I continue to fully believe. Add to that the killer fitness base I will have built up at year-end from this fall’s 10K training, I think a 1:44 or better is a possibility for me even without an intense, targeted training plan if I stay in shape and keep running as a part of my lifestyle. It may take me a few tries to get it this spring, but I think I can do it.
But, I’m also accepting – and okay with – the possibility that it won’t happen. I do still want to run and participate in races, but things are going to be different next year. My priorities and values are starting to go in a welcome new direction that I’m eager to follow. Being fast and improving my race times is really beginning to seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I don’t regret the time I’ve spent devoted to that passion, but the growing discontent I felt after the Pittsburgh Marathon was more than simple burn out, it’s telling me that it’s time to move on and that running can’t come first anymore.
None of this affects my current 10K training, by the way. I’m in it, I’ve committed to it, I’m enjoying it and I intend to see it through. But, I am starting to rethink my goals a little bit, and wonder if I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself and setting my standards for this one cycle at an inappropriately high level. I think second-guessing myself and my workouts is natural since I’m out of my comfort zone with this type of running, but I also am feeling like I’m starting to get a little too greedy with my expectations for success. Given that this may be my last formal, improvement-focused training cycle for a whole year, I need to start making it a priority to actually enjoy it and appreciate the opportunity as well.
P.S. – I’m sorry I have not yet responded/followed through with the feedback I got from last week’s post calling for blog recommendations. I did check out several of the blogs and I’ve been meaning to follow and get engaged, but it just keeps getting away from me. Since we’re busy this weekend but staying in town, I hope to have time to get on that!