Why it’s ok to be a tortoise 

No matter how fast you are, there will always be somebody somewhere who is faster.

These were wise words from a fellow Mornington Chaser at a cross country meet last week, as we discussed the relative merits and downfalls of our respective races. I was worrying about being slower than my other teammates and these words, from a super-speedy runner, made me realise that if my satisfaction from races was only to come as a measure of my pace relative to others, I was set on a path for perpetual disappointment.

So, instead of worrying about the people who may beat me across the finish line (which in my case is many), I’ve decided to set my focus on racing against myself; aiming for PBs and those fabled negative splits. That’s not to say that the race element is taken away completely, indeed nothing says motivation like a bit of healthy competition, but my objective is not to dwell on my relative position but my absolute level of improvement.

It was with this in mind that I ran the St Neots half marathon on Sunday. I had assigned this particular race as the watershed between casual summer running and the next round of winter training. With marathon training kicking off in December, I wanted to assess my fitness levels before I started, to see what I’m working with but also to set a pre-season time to beat.

While I’ve been running regularly since the Paris marathon last April and have had a few shorter races since then, this was due to be the first run over 10 miles that I’d done of late. If I’m honest, my main concern was whether I’d be able to finish. It may sound silly having regularly run over the 13.1 mile distance pre-Paris, but it’s amazing how quickly you can lose your fitness.

Still, despite the windy conditions I felt strong for most of the route. I started chatting with a guy at mile 4 and we ran together for a good 4 miles from that point.

There was a particularly tough uphill and head-windy stretch between miles 8 and 11 which almost finished me off. My pace dropped off a little and I had to dig deep. However, once we turned the corner out of the wind and headed along the final stretch the last two and a bit miles flew by. I was able to catch back up with my new running buddy, who was, by that stage, in need of a little encouragement himself, and we crossed the finish line together.

My splits were pretty consistent and unlike my normal half marathon times, my final few kilometres were on a par, pace wise, with my first.

I crossed the line having beaten my 20km PB and knocking 3 minutes off my half marathon PB, proving to myself that I can comfortably and consistently run a sub 2 hour half marathon.

I was elated as I rejoined some of my Morning Chaser teammates. It was testimony to how much I’m learning to work within my own parameters that when they expressed disappointment by their own sub 1.30 times I was able to lend a sympathetic ear, knowing full well I’d kill to have run that kind of time.

So now it’s on to a winter of training. I’ve already earmarked some long training runs, and have some times in mind. I’ve just got to remember to keep my eyes on my own goals and if I find myself overtaken along the way, not to get too disheartened and who knows, eventually I may be the one doing some of the overtaking.

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