Good race? Good time? Happy with that? You’ve got to be pleased with that time, right?
I’m as guilty as any one else of asking these questions, but when faced with them myself, never really know how to respond. But surprisingly I knew the answer yesterday, and even more surprisingly, it was ‘yes.’ I ran exactly 32 minutes for 10k yesterday morning, which is a 22 second improvement on my previous best time. My target for this year, set a few months ago, was to break 32 minutes by the end of the year. Strictly speaking I haven’t done this, but I can see very clearly where that extra second is coming from (though the end of year target is now likely to revised downwards). My training recently has mainly been 3k and 5k pace work and I haven’t really done anything 10k specific, so I know that with some of that under my belt I can get comfortably into the 31s. I will probably have another go at the end of the summer.
But back to the point of the post, being happy. Runners are rarely happy with their performances in races. Satisfaction is often mistaken for complacency amongst my type and as a result we are usually very self critical, often ridiculously so. It is not unknown for athletes to set a personal best and complain that it was still outside (insert time). I managed to avoid doing this yesterday. Runners are unwilling to express satisfaction with their progress for fear that it might lead to stagnation. Bizarrely the feeling of inadequacy is just the thing that spurs some athletes on. But there can be a middle ground, being happy and wanting more; the two needn’t be mutually exclusive. I am very happy with the progress I’ve been making since I started training with a new group 6 weeks ago but am fully aware of what I need to do in order to be a better athlete. In fact, training and racing against people much better than me, for example the 39 people who finished ahead of me yesterday, has made me realise that there is a long way to go. It has also reminded me of the importance not putting a limit on what I think I am capable of. Targets should be a floor rather than a ceiling.
So with that in mind, I plan to race again on Wednesday night, provided I can recover sufficiently. 3000 metres on the track this time. The floor is 8:55. The ceiling is, wait, there is no ceiling.