As a long distance runner with a busy professional life, I tend to do most of my training by myself. This is fine by me as I can run according to my own schedule, my own pace, for as long or short as I want. Almost by necessity, I am very cognizant of my own effort, my own speed, my own progression as a runner but somewhat clueless as to how it relates in comparison to others. I am part of a running club, the NY Flyers, but they serve more of a social function in my running life than as a source of competition. I participate in road races, but more to provide an objective measure of assessment for myself than as a tool to rate against others. For what good is it to me, if I'm top 1% vs the bottom 1% if I know nothing and have no business, and don't run with any of them? I much rather race the clock and chase PRs. That way, I can interpret my race times as it relates to me, and I can modify my training or alter my goals based on them. In the end, am I not a better judge of me than some ranking based on assumptions about others?
Maybe I'm naive, but I've always assumed that others follow a similar path. Even beyond the obvious, "speed is relative"; we all experience the same joy when we crush a PR, the same pain when we hit the wall, the same sorrow when we come close but fall short at a goal, and the same happiness when others achieve success in their events. So why does it matter so much who's a fast runner and who's not? Does the person who runs a 5 hour first marathon not deserving of the same applause and accolades as a 3 hour tenth marathoner? Who's to judge anyway?
I have been left to ponder the consequence and randomness of speed ever since one of my friends told me the other day that many, many members of my running club secretly admire my running and that some are even intimidated by my speed. He threw out some names and explained that people generally don't look for me to run with because they respect my speed and, in a sense, fear it. This is a complete shock to me on many levels. First of all, many of these people are my friends and no one previously has ever mentioned this little known fact to me before. Secondly, who the heck should care about how fast I run except me? Yes I may be blessed with God-given talent that may make me a little faster than the average human being but I train and run and struggle and hurt and race just like everyone else. From my vantage point, there are people in front of me, and there are people in back of me. We're all trying to get to the same place as fast as our legs will carry us. I might get there a little sooner or a little later, but eventually, you'll get there too! And if you struggle, I will do all I can to help just like I assume those in front will help me too! Admiration? Intimidation? How does any of that figure into the equation when all of us are traveling the same direction and sharing the same roads? Thirdly, since when has it been considered a bad thing to run with someone who's a little faster? Anyone who's ever been in training for any sport knows you don't get better by training with those who are at the same level as you, you get better by training with those who are bigger, faster, and more experienced. So by the same token, runners should look for opportunities to run with faster folk. Just by virtue of hanging with them, learning from their experience, and running with them, you're most definitely going to run faster and race better too!
I'm been told on many occasions that I can be humble to a fault, and many people have tried on numerous occasions to convince me that I'm incredibly gifted, talented and fast. With all due respect though, my mind is incapable of comprehending those terms because to acknowledge those qualities means that by extension, I must think you are less gifted, less talented, and slow, and I don't judge by those criteria. Sorry! Instead, I would like others to regard my speed (for those who think I'm fast) as a possibility for them. I want to inspire people to view speed not as a dichotomy (fast and slow) but as a continuum bounded by nothing but your own imagination, dedication, and hard work. Heck, I didn't start out running 6 minute miles either!
For whatever the reasons may be, no matter how much I want to be in denial about this, I know now that I'm generally well-respected in my local running scene and in the virtual community for running prowess. In so much as I'm viewed as a source of knowledge (both running and non-running), I want to help others achieve better results, better health and a better overall life for themselves and for their friends and families. In the end, that's what motivates me to train hard, to be faster and get better each and every day. I so much rather be respected and congratulated for that than for some arbitrary time on a race clock at the finish line.
To improves the lives of those around me, physically and virtually, that's why I run.
(I wish you all a happy weekend! It's very frigid temps for much of the country so stay warm wherever you may be running. I have a big announcement to make on Monday so come back then and don't let me catch you napping! Haha! Repeat after me: Spring will be here soon...)