Thursday, May 15, 2008

Runner's envy

In the last few days I've been struck with a mild bout of runner's envy. I find myself envious of other runners' speed and ability, leading inevitably to dissatisfaction with my own.

Now, I'm not talking about envying Deena Kastor or any of the elite runners, whose running talents are so extreme that envy is pointless. I wouldn't even want to be that fast. Think of the pressure!

Nor do I particularly envy the "very very good" runners, who are not elite but are the fastest in the local sorts of races. Their skills surpass mine in a way that is quite unattainable. I'm okay with that.

No, the ones I envy are the ones who are like me—but better. The ones who post times and paces that sound similar to my own, but in closer scrutiny turn out to be better. The ones who surprise themselves by achieving race times that I could just about dream of, but not quite achieve.

For example. A fellow attorney who I know slightly turns out to run marathons. (If I knew her better I would have already known that.) As a matter of curiosity, I looked up her times in the last two marathons I'm aware she's run. One was last fall's Chicago Marathon, a race which many people did not finish before it was cancelled. She finished under 3:53, with an average pace of 8:52. Her most recent marathon time was under 3:55, with a pace of exactly nine minutes per mile.

So on the face of things, her pace is one that I'm familiar with. 8:52? Exactly my pace in the Shamrock 15K. Nine minutes? About my pace in the Whidbey Half Marathon and the Bloomsday Run.

But wait—she is maintaining this pace for 26.2 miles! At least double—or more—any of my runs! While I'm throwing myself across the finish line she is heading out for more of the same!

Another person I've picked to admire and envy is Sarah at Running into the Sun. On the one hand she's rocking the nine minute mile (like me); then the next thing you know she's doing a 10K under 52 minutes and looking at a similar pace for an upcoming half marathon! I should have guessed something's up if she's doing nine minute miles in training runs. Great work, Sarah.

I suppose it's not surprising that these feelings of envy and dissatisfaction have come up after all the races I've done this spring. Most of them were hard and hilly, and I haven't seen a PR for a long time (unless you count Bloomsday, which was my first and only 12K, thus a PR in that distance).

Furthermore, I'm a little nervous about the Beat the Bridge Run this Sunday. It's only five miles (usually a good distance for me) but you never know what will happen in a crowded field. I virtuously signed up for the "slower than 8 minute pace" group, which will include all the really slow people and walkers, which may hold me back and keep me from getting across the bridge in less that 20 minutes (it's two miles in and goes up 20 minutes after the third group starts). My friend Ann said that when she ran it a few years ago, she put herself in a faster group so she could start nearer the front. It was too late for me, though—I'd already signed up. And anyway, I don't know if I would have had the nerve to claim I was running a sub-8 mile. Plus, what if I was, like, last?

On Wednesday I had kind of a rough morning run, at least the first few miles. These were the thoughts going through my mind....

I wish I could have a massage.
My legs ache.
I'll bet a massage would make them feel better.
I wish I could have a massage every day.
Then I bet my legs wouldn't ache.
(I repeated this train of thought for several minutes.)

I actually had a lot more thoughts but now only the aching legs and massage yearning sticks with me.

On Friday (the day after this post was written, how can that be?) I started out with achy legs (still/again), but managed to get past that and even do some speed work along with a couple of extra miles. As my legs loosened up and lightened up (you know that nice feeling when your legs feel light and fast, as opposed to slow and leaden), I coaxed myself into bursts of speed, setting time goals for various landmarks. Mainly this was an effort to get myself home in a timely fashion so that I wasn't late for work! I had meant to get an early start to allow for a longer run, but as usual lingered in bed longer than I planned too. In the end I left home only 10 minutes early, added two miles to my usual distance, and finished up only five minutes later than usual. I may not be a math whiz (oh, who am I kidding, I am pure genius at calculating average pace and distance, just no good at simple arithmatic), but I am pretty sure that shows a faster pace than a typical run day.

This hasn't really changed my feelings of envy (and really, it's admiration as much as envy), but it does make me feel a whole lot better about myself. Sunday will be just fine.

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