Monday, July 12, 2010

The Limit

"A lot of people run a race to see who's the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts."
Steve Prefontaine

I'm a slow runner. That's not to say that I'm the slowest person out there--I mean, I have been running regularly for about 9 months now (which I just calculated in my head and wow it seems like a lot less time than that), and so my comfortable running pace is about a 10-10:30 minute mile. In half marathons past, my splits, or what my average pace per mile was, were around 10:10.

My background is also not an athletic one. A former band nerd, my experience with pushing through sweat and pain is from August marching band camp, when we would stand and march for hours in the sun without any shade.  But pushing through sweat and pain because I'm running fast?  Not what I'm used to.

Two weekends ago, I ran with my speedy friend Jenny. It was first thing in the morning and we were on a new road, one in New Hampshire by the lake mentioned in the previous post. There were some hills, but they were the nice kind--not too high, not too long. Running with Jenny, I knew that I would be going out of my comfort zone, so I tried to push myself and I also tried to hold my ground with a pace that I'd be able to keep up for the 4.5 mile run we were doing.  When we were finished, I was surprised to find out that we had run about a 9 minute mile the whole time. I was exhausted but it wasn't the kind of exhaustion I would expect from that pace.

Our coach, Adam, taught us about breathing and foot turnover a few weeks ago.  To reach maximum speed and endurance, each foot should hit the ground about 90 times a minute, and we should be breathing on a pattern of 2-steps in and 2-steps out.  If we're breathing more than that, we're working too hard, and if we're breathing less than that, we're not working hard enough.  By the end of my New Hampshire run, I was just short of reaching that pattern, comfortably breathing in a 3-steps in 3-steps out rhythm.

This made me realize something about myself: I'm a wimp!  When it comes to physical pain and exertion, I go the easy route.  Sure, I can run a long ways, and I've enjoyed the long runs I've gone on in training for the past two half marathons, but I do it at a leisurely, comfortable pace (leisure running: grab an ice cold water from the cooler and enjoy yourself). My running mantra for the past 9 months has "run for enjoyment, not for speed."  Formed out of my fear that working hard would make me hate running, I think this mantra is out of date and needs revision.

My goal time for the marathon is 4hr 30min, although I would be satisfied with an under 5hr finish.  I still think that it's more important to finish than it is to finish in a certain time, though.  I do want to get faster, but not so I can finish faster than other people (that's just a perk).  I want to go faster to prove to myself that I can.  I want push myself to meet my limitations and greet them with success.

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