Yesterday I ran the Honor Connor 5K for the 2nd time. I was comparing my 2015 & 2016 performances this morning and had a major epiphany re: my running (and my coaching in general).
In 2015, I coached a Run for God 5K Challenge class at my church; Honor Connor was our goal 5K. My only personal goal for the race was to finish quickly enough to go back out on the course and run in with each of my classmates, which I got to do (with the exception of speedy Phil, who finished a few minutes before me and was probably the most joyful runner on the course). A couple of my runners won AG awards, which made me so incredibly proud. It was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed every minute – I didn’t PR and I didn’t AG place but I didn’t care, because it wasn’t about me.
Due to scheduling conflicts (Girls on the Run, my Big Sur marathon training), I was unable to coach a spring R4G class this year. I ended up running Honor Connor alone as a baseline run for the Sub-30 Club #getyourPR project, which is an 8 week initiative to set and crush time goals in the 1mi, 5K, 5mi or 10K distances. I tried to run by feel rather than aiming to hit a particular pace, but I still found myself obsessing over time as I ran.
I was 3 seconds faster than last year’s run on the same course, but I was 5:21 off my 5K PR. Nothing was necessarily “wrong” with my run, other than me feeling slow and vaguely unhappy. There was no joy or pride in my performance.
Finally to the point of this post: it hit me this morning that I enjoy running so much more when I am helping someone else reach their goals. Probably 75-80% of the races I run are at someone else’s pace, whether I am running with my best running friend, cheering on my GOTR girls or R4G folks, meeting a new friend on a course and helping them finish or pacing a group. When it’s my turn to aim for a pace above my current personal ability, that’s when the wheels fall off of the most important part of running: the sheer joy of it.
And if I think about it, this applies to my coaching in derby and in personal training as well. I’d rather help someone else achieve their goals than try to reach my own. I’ve long said I’m a better coach than I am an athlete, and yet I need to have a certain level of fitness as an athlete to keep up with the skaters and runners that I coach.
So what’s the solution? Do I find a running coach/pacer for myself so that I have someone who will be proud of me (which is very motivating for me as a people-pleaser), since I clearly have a hard time being proud of myself? Do I scrap the idea of aiming for a PR for awhile in order to preserve/regain the joy of running, even if that means not working toward pacing faster groups because I have limited myself?
Maybe I’m still burnt out and recovering from Big Sur Marathon. I feel like this running ennui is the state I’ve been in since Dallas Marathon in 2014, though – I went from that injury-tainted 26.2 debut to the letdown of Cowtown Marathon 2015 (canceled due to an ice storm so I ran it on a treadmill) to the highs and lows of checking my #1 bucket list race off my list a month ago, with a subgoal in 2015 of running 12 half marathons in 12 months (I ended up running 13 + the treadmill marathon).
Perhaps the solution would be to just stop running for awhile and concentrate on strength-training and kickboxing, but I don’t know if that would help or hurt me since I have self-identified as a runner since I was 7 years old. I just want to find my way back to that mindset I had when I was 7, when the sheer joy of running across a field full of cows and sunflowers was the only thing that mattered.
That’s enough self-absorbed navel-gazing for one day. I’d rather be writing meal plans and workout programs for other people.