April 24, 2010


So, I've been having this problem recently with my running, and that problem is that I am a competitive lunatic. The scenario plays out this way: I get dressed for a run, usually at work, and to make it easier on myself I say, "Today I'm just going go relax; I'm not going to worry about pace. I'm just going to hang back and mull some things over in my brain and take it easy." It's easier for me to get out of the office and onto the trail if I promise that it won't be hard.

Then I go out and I try to make my first mile easy, which is harder than it sounds, since I usually think I'm going an average or even slightly slower pace only to look down at my Garmin and discover I'm running, like, a 7:40 mile.

Inevitably what happens next is I come upon some poor soul, or maybe even a group of poor souls, who are casually biding their time, running at their pace, maybe talking, maybe lost in a running reverie. And they're going maybe 10-15 seconds/mile slower than I am. I think to myself, "I should stay behind them, I should pace off of them and just RELAX ALREADY and quit being a fasthole." But inevitably I can't control myself; I inch closer and closer behind them until I'm drafting. Then I turn into a ninja. I try to make myself very quiet so they won't know I'm drafting, and I try for several hopeless moments to STAY SLOW, JERKSAUCE.

Then of course I'm spotted, and I feel sheepish for drafting in a FREAKING RECREATIONAL RUN and I sheepishly pass.

The next scenario that occurs on the run -- and I swear, these things happen in this order every time -- is I come across someone ahead of me who runs at exactly my pace, or maybe just a second or two per mile faster. I see them up ahead, I gauge their speed, and the rational, non-jerk part of my head says, "Don't do it!" But the universe conspires against me and that person stops to tie her shoe, or stops so his dog can pee, or maybe I have in advance (honestly) decided to make this one section of the trail my 'sprint' section.

So, I pass. Of course when I pass I make sure I have perfect form and look totally awesome.

Then I spend the entire rest of my run, which can be anywhere from half a mile to two excruciating miles, fretting that I'm going to get passed back. An old belief of mine, back from my sprinting days, is that you never ever ever look back to see where your competition is. In sprinting, you don't look back primarily because doing so throws off your speed; in every other form of running I think it just makes you look intimidated.

Also, it tips off the person you've just passed that you're an over-competitive nutjob.

The reality is, I love to race. I'm a very competitive person by nature and I love to go fast. But I haven't truly raced in years, since I'm now a middle-of-the-pack distance runner (rather than a sprinter). I'm no competition in the events I enter now because I'm inevitably going up against people who can run a 6-minute mile or better. Of course, I can race within my cluster of like-paced runners; I can race people the last 100 yards or so to the finish (I have a good kick); I can race against my own pace. But at the end of the day I still mostly end up finishing 25th or 85th or even further down the roster, depending on the size of the race.

I bring this up because yesterday, during my weekly Friday run with friends, we were chatting about pace (we were running about a 10:15 mile) and they were teasing me about how much I had to slow down to stay with the pack. "What's your 5k pace?" a friend asked, and when I answered (I train at about an 8:15 mile), another friend said, "You know, there's a 5K on Sunday that I bet you could win."


So, YOU GUYS. guess what I'm doing tomorrow morning??!

1 comment:

  1. oh man, i so relate. no with running but with cycling. and i don't even race! but i do play those games with myself -- sometimes i actually do stay behind someone kinda slow in order to keep myself slow so i can take it easy for a change. but mostly it's an opportunity to pass and then i haaaaaaate getting passed back so much. and on days when i get passed a lot i get such a complex about it. am i going that much slower than normal? are there just crazy people out today? (having a bike computer will help with that once i'm riding again; i didn't have one when i used to ride to and from work)

    5k! good luck!