Friday, December 2, 2011

Proving Myself

Running long distances. Running faster. Running every day.

Lately, I've been putting together some things that I've not done before. I had six runs of 10 or more miles in November, for instance. And of course I closed out the month with a 53-day run streak intact.

Fueling some (a lot?) of this is a need to prove myself.

Now, bear with me a bit as I try to explain that: if I ran, say, six miles on Tuesday, it doesn't mean much if I don't follow it up with another similar or better run on Wednesday or Thursday. If I run eight miles at a 9:20 pace, it don't mean much if I can't run 5-6 miles at a faster pace. If I've got weeks of 45, 47, 50 in succession, it ain't gonna matter if I throw in a 20-mile week.

I'm a strong runner.

Prove it.

Okay there, see, only strong runners do that.

Okay good, prove it again.

It's not necessarily a vicious cycle, but maybe it is and I just don't see it that way. Maybe that's why I'm here exploring this on the blog.

Now, this whole attitude goes against my prevailing approach to running - as long as I'm running and doing what I need to do to make sure that I can get out there and run, it's all good. Yeah, this whole prove-myself thing is pretty much contrary to all of that. It's not to say that my mentality has done a 180 but I do have this sense of need when it comes to proving myself.

But... who do I have to prove myself to? My fellow runners? The ever-present and ever-anonymous "haters" out there? Who needs proof?

Honestly, I think I do.

I've done some good things in a relative short amount of time. I've run four marathons and six half marathons, as well as 10Ks, 5Ks, a 15K, a relay race, some mud runs... all since June 2008. I'm a pace leader now, a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador and am training for my fifth marathon.

Maybe the fact that all of that seems a bit... I dunno... pretty cool must mean that it wasn't that difficult. Here I go again... if I can do it, then how tough is it? Right? Talk about a vicious cycle, there's one...

I'm not sure if that's it, though. I know a marathon is tough, super tough. It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. But still, I can't just be content with keeping marathons in my past. I do want to challenge myself and keep running 26.2s while my body still can.

Maybe my experiences as a pace leader have really gotten me into this feeling. A typical long run goes like this: I start out in front of a group of anywhere from 15-20 runners. I lead em out to the first stop light along our route, about the .6 mile mark, and when we cross the street a pack starts to get ahead of me. Now, my job as pace leader is to hold a certain pace, and I try to keep it around 9:30-9:45, give or take. So this pack typically runs at a 9:15-9:30 pace. They get out ahead. They keep going. Pretty soon, I'm around 3-4 runners, and my co-pace leader is further behind with some stragglers.

Last week, I wound up running with one other runner. After the 5-mile mark of our 10-mile run, it was just me and another guy. I "paced" one other runner.

I think that's it. In many ways I feel completely disrespected. I know... well, at least I think I know... that the other runners aren't doing it intentionally. Runners like to run at their own pace, and that's fine, right? And if that pace is a little faster than the pace I'm holding, that's fine, right?

I don't know, I suppose. Maybe I'm reading way too much into this, but I think that's where this mentality comes from.

I do feel bummed out about how Sundays typically work out. I would love to have a group of 10 runners behind me at Mile 8, but usually by then I'm around 3-4 others at most. I haven't done any races since June save for the one on our training schedule. And I don't plan on running anything until the LA Marathon (with Surf City half a possible exception). I've set aside my year basically for this, to be a pace leader, to be a strong pace leader, to be a rock, to be able to guide runners through 5, 10, 15, 20 miles at around a 10-minute pace. I've given up a lot of myself and it seems lately that I've been asking myself if it's been worth it.

I ran a combined 400 miles in October and November, all to stay on top of this pace leader responsibility, and for what? For everyone to take off and ignore me?

I hope things change soon. We're set to run 14 miles on Dec. 11 and 15 miles on Dec. 18. We have 18 miles on the schedule for Jan. 8 and Jan. 22. I know for an absolute fact that I can handle those distances but I also know that some of the frontrunners can't. I'm going to be there for them and anyone else who wants to run with the 10s on those days and any days, that commitment on my end is not going to waver.

I take pride in having the ample leg and mental strength to get through such distances.

And I suppose I'll just have to keep proving that over and over again.

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