I was looking at old photos yesterday and it got me thinking about change. Photos I took years ago that I once thought where pretty good look mediocre to me now. The photo hasn’t changed, just my perspective based on experience. At the same time you can also find hidden gems that you never even realised exited but that was there the whole time. I came a cross this photo I took in Paris in 2015. Technically it’s not that great a photo, I just happened to click the button at the exact right time to catch two pigeons looking towards each other form the shape of a heart. I had no idea it had even happened The image remained overlooked for 11 years, not even flipped the right way up. I probably didn’t even give more of a glance at the image back then, distracted maybe by some other image which I then thought was fabulous and which i now wouldn’t even give a second glance. I guess the point is that perspective and response change based on knowledge and experience and I wonder if the same applies to running.
When I first started racing properly, actually running for a target time rather than just to finish, I kept getting faster and faster for a few months and then it stopped. I was still training and becoming a stronger runner but I was so obsessed with time that I’d start too fast, get stressed about pace, burn myself out by half way, not get the result I wanted and then be angry at myself until the next race when it would all start all over again. I was making myself crazy worrying over seconds and feeling like a failure. Thankfully I met some people from Warrington Running Club who taught me to find the fun in running and just enjoy it. I still got PBs now and again but only at races where I told myself not to worry about time. I stopped training ‘properly’ (with like training plans and stuff) and along the way I think I got a bit scared of trying to be fast again.
Last year I didn’t have to worry about time. At first I told myself that it was ok to be slower, that it was acceptable when you where doing so many race miles, but honestly I wanted to get to the point where I didn’t care at all about time and pace. By half way through the year it could be hours or days before I’d think to look at my strava or race results to find out what time I ran, it simply stopped mattering. I got one PB last year, my fastest mile. It was my favourite year ever. At the last race of the year I actually came last for the first time and I can’t say I’m bothered. I’m actually pretty darn proud of that result although I couldn’t tell you what time I ran it in, it’s just not important enough for me to commit it to memory. People always say don’t worry about pace, that a 12 minute mile is the same distance as an 8 minute mile. It took me a year to actually believe it and I think it made me a better person as a result. I see heroes at the back of the race now, not the front and I’ve found how to love racing, not just running, racing. Many people will read this and deep down think that at the end of the day you’re not a real runner unless you’re going fast really but I pity you a little because I think you’re missing the beauty of being able to go slow.
I’m not sure where this leaves me though. In 2017 I want to get fast again and then get faster. I don’t, however, want to return to the way I used to be and suck all the fun out of running because my split was like 3 seconds behind where it should be. Maybe the knowledge and experience gained this year will give me new perspective on racing for speed. Maybe I’ll find the running equivalent of a pigeon heart, something I hadn’t found or hadn’t been looking for before. Maybe I’ll be able to relax into each race, trust the training and stick to the plan. Maybe I won’t get angry at myself when I don’t. Maybe I won’t care if I don’t knock two seconds of my time or get a sub 25 5k but still do everything I possibly can to train myself to be able to do it. Maybe maybe maybe.
All the training plans for next year are now in my spreadsheet. I was considering being apprehensive about having to follow them but instead I’ve decided to be a pigeon heart, focus on the training, just see where each race takes me and enjoy it. If it happens to take me to a PB… Cherry. Cake. (I like cake)