Thursday, January 13, 2011

Confessions Of A Trailrunner

I changed the name of my blog. Though I am serious about my running and I love the trails, to consider myself anything other than a recreational runner wouldn't be fair to the dedicated runners out there.

I was talking to someone the other day and speaking as an ultra runner, I suddenly stopped and realized it was actually two years ago that I ran the Pineland 50k (my first and only ultra race so far) There are many true ultra runners who don't consider the 50k to be long enough to qualify and if you don't accomplish at least 50 miles, then you are not a true ultra runner.

As I sat and thought long and hard, I found it difficult to classify my running. It seems my aspirations were always much grander than my accomplishments. I suppose I was not dedicated enough to step into the abyss and put full 100 percent effort into training for a race and then leaving nothing on the table as I collapse at the finish.

When I first started running (at 46 years old), I had the drive and commitment. I raced every run in preparation for 5Ks and 10Ks, both of which I did pretty well at and could easily consider myself a road racer.

Problem was the constant racing instead of running was taking it's toll and I had continuous injuries. I didn't leave time for recovery or rest so the fast times started dwindling and the harder I tried, the worse it got.

I finally realized how stupid I was about racing and running as a whole. With no rest and no easy enjoyable running, I became burnt out and finally I pushed too hard and broke my ankle. This change of events forced me to re-evaluate and slow down a bit.

I am not writing all this for you (the readers) benefit but more for my own. I need to realize that my brain concocts all these massive goals, ones that I either can not or do not bring to a reality.

I understand that at 55 years old and with many personal commitments right now, that I can not train to race with any real expectations other than perhaps finishing a few long races and trying to run a respectable time for the amount of training.

I am humbled by the people who find the time to run 100 miles a week, humbled by the ultra runners who find it within themselves to master 100 miles at once, humbled by the runners who can finish at the front of the pack.

So.... here I am giving confession. In 2006 I ran the Maine Marathon. I did very well and started calling myself a marathoner. I had hoped to beat four hours and almost did with a time of 4:01. I decided I would train harder and qualify for Boston.

Here it is fives years later and I not only haven't qualified, but I actually have not even run a second marathon. You see my goals reached far beyond my accomplishments yet I still considered myself a marathoner......just like I consider myself an ultra runner.

Doing something once does not qualify a person to be a master. I could drive around town like a maniac, speeding all over the place, practice racing at the local track, enter in a race and actually race it.........does that make me a race car driver?

I suspect it does as long as I continue showing up at the track and racing to the best of my ability week in and week out. If I only practice when time permits and show up at a couple special races, wouldn't I be a recreational driver?

Don't get me wrong, it's OK to be a recreational race car driver (or runner) but one has to be realistic and not think they can somehow race the Indy 500. I have to find peace within myself to accept and hopefully embrace the goal of running new and different kinds of races or events but not with illusions of grander.

I guess I just want to be honest with myself. I call myself Pathfinder though in actualality I am more like Pathfollower..... I can call myself a trail racer but periodically I have to take the time to go to confession, look through realistic glasses and admit to myself that I am merely a person who loves running, loves trails......not a marathoner, not an ultra runner, just a trail runner.


Sparkplug said...

Hey, there's nothing wrong with "just" being a trail runner! I have only run two marathons, and have yet to finish a 50k (although I hope to change that this March!), and I too am humbled by our friends who run 50 and 100 miles at a pop. I think it is OK to have grand plans in your mind, and if you attain them great, but if not, you tried and in the end, it is just important to get out there and enjoy the trails (or the roads!). Here's to a good running year in 2011 for all of us!!

John said...

I reflected on running today in my blog (you can find the link at Valerie's blog; mine is called "The Long Run") with a somewhat similar dillusions although I've been running for 27 years. This past summer I mentioned to my neighbor that I like to think of myself as an ultra-runner but that I'm really not. He kindly said that he thought of me as one.