This could be the year
by Chad Austin 1/6/08
As my racing season was winding down in 2007, I started to spend many of my training runs thinking about what drives us runners – and more particularly, what drives me. Why do I – an average running, 38-year-old, father of two, white-collar working stiff – wake up as early as 4:30am to run? Health-wise, I’d probably be better off running half as many miles – and adding some strength training and better eating habits to my routine. I guess the answer must have more to do with the competitive side of the sport, seeking better racing performances, and having a successful – defined as getting the most out of my abilities – running career.
Personally, I enjoy the challenge of putting in the hard work of training and seeing the outcome expressed in race results. My desire to improve and succeed in this sport is definitely still there. I think part of what keeps me lacing up my shoes each morning throughout the winter is the thought that this could be the year. No, I haven’t come within two minutes of my 12-year old 10K PR, but maybe, just maybe, if I work a little harder and put in more miles, this could be the year. So as I enter 2008, I’m excited about the prospects of building my mileage during the winter months in order to lay the foundation for this year’s Boston Marathon, the rest of 2008, and the future.
For me, the first half of 2007 was a very good year. The second half was not so good. One of the things I love about running is that no matter how well or how poorly your previous season went, you can always wipe your slate clean and start all over the following season. With the weather conditions during many of the fall marathons this year, namely Twin Cities and Chicago, I imagine a lot of runners were looking forward to wiping their slate clean too.
Luckily for us living in Minnesota, winter is the perfect time to forget about the previous season and plan for the upcoming season. As my mind turned towards 2008, I remembered back to a conversation I had with John Naslund the day before the City of Lakes 25K. We were talking about race results over the years. John mentioned how the same runners beat him year after year. It didn’t matter if he was in his 30s, 40s or 50s, for the most part the same guys beat him. I imagine this is true for most runners, especially if they’ve been running for a long time. I know it’s true for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize this is a sport best served by comparing yourself against your own performances, not someone else’s. However, a little competition amongst other runners can be used to help motivate us along the way.
After talking with John, my next thought was, can I change this trend, and if so, how? Whenever I think about changing the outcome of something, I’m always reminded of a quote I heard a few years back; “If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do the things you’ve never done before.” When I apply this to my running it means not doing the same training year after year and expecting different results. Therefore, each winter I try to get stronger by experimenting with higher mileage in preparation for the upcoming road racing season.
I mentioned this on my blog, along with the conversation I had with John, and someone commented that just by sticking around year after year, he was able to move up in his age-group. He touted longevity and said my love of high mileage might not help with a long career. Somehow moving up the age-group ranks because other runners stop racing isn’t what I had in mind. And while I agree that there’s something to be said about longevity, I’ve already been at this sport for 28 years, I think I have that part covered. Besides, when I think about longevity, I’m reminded of a Jack London passage that appears on the back of Pre, the biography of Steve Prefontaine written by Tom Jordan;
Of course, I’m not hoping to die at a young age like Prefontaine did, but I am advocating “using my time” to become a better runner. I don’t know if long and successful are mutually exclusive when talking about running careers. Ideally, when it’s all said and done, I’d like to look back and say I achieved both – I got the most out of my abilities for a long time.
I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stilled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time. – Jack London
If you’re like me, most of your New Year’s resolutions have already faded. However, the vast majority of the 2008 racing season is still in front of us. There’s still time to wipe your slate clean, set some challenging goals for the year, and push yourself towards obtaining them. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.