See the ground from far away
And it’s progress, progress if it’s made
– Balance and Composure: Progress, Progress
It’s been a great weekend. On Saturday afternoon we went out for a bike ride from Birmingham to Stratford-Upon-Avon along the canal towpath; 50km of nothing but beautiful scenery and my wife’s company. Perfect. Sunday was just as much fun but for different reasons. I attended my former university’s reunion race in the morning, a trail race of approximately 5 miles where former and present students compete for bragging rights, and of course have a good catch up. In full sunshine, we got started and everyone went bombing off down the first hill. I ran along side another runner who was at university around the same time as me and by a couple of miles in we were away at the front, moving along at as even a pace as we could manage over rough terrain and churned up fields. I began to pull away in the final mile and ended up finishing first, which was a pleasant and unexpected bonus on a day that was only really meant to be about having fun and seeing old faces.
But that’s not to say I’m not competitive. In fact, I take training and racing very seriously, which sometimes causes me to lose perspective. All runners know that if you train hard and train sensibly you will usually get better. If we didn’t believe this we just wouldn’t bother, would we? We all believe that you reap what you sow; this is why any signs of a lack of progress can cause huge frustration in runners. I can think of several examples just in my own experience. Three weeks ago I ran a 5 minute personal best in the London Marathon and was annoyed with myself for not breaking 2:35. I won my hometown half marathon and after the initial joy of victory, reminded myself that I didn’t even come within a minute of my time from the previous year. Personally I think this attitude, this inability to be 100% satisfied with a performance, is what drives us and motivates us to get better. If you think you’ve achieved all your goals there is no incentive to improve, but a positive attitude can be very important too. Athletes need to look for positives rather than just seeing the negatives in a race or a session. For me today, this was reminding myself that I had just finished ahead of several guys by whom I would regularly have my arse handed to me in my university days. Granted, this is no absolute measure of progress; some of them might not be as fit as they once were, but there’s no harm in reminding yourself how far you’ve come.
I might not be as good a runner as I was 5 weeks ago, but I’m certainly better than I was 5 years ago and as long as the overall trend is an upwards one I’ll be happy. Please remind me of this next time I moan about having a bad race.