This morning I ran the 5k part of Run for the Water, sponsored by Gazelles Foundation, founded by Gilbert Tuhabonye (www.gilbertsgazelles.com). The Foundation is a fantastic organization that raises funds to build access to water in Burundi. The Austin morning was an autumn cool, clear skies, no wind. The race was sold out: 10 miler, 5k, 1k for kids. The traditionally-dressed drummers greeted the finishers. Gilbert waved and hugged the runners. Family members cheered one another along.
Why is it, then, that I’m disappointed with my finishing time? The statistics: I placed first in my age group (F60-64) by over two minutes; top 5% in masters female category; and top 5% women overall. But my pace was 15 seconds/mile slower than the 5k Superheroes Run I did last month, where I ran in hot and humid weather wearing a Wonder Woman costume. Was I tired because I did not sleep well last night? Was I more cautious because of concern about re-injuring myself? Was I hesitant, afraid the biting pain would return like the last race if I tried too hard? Why didn’t I push myself more?
I do not recall being competitive as a child, at least not in athletics. I was awkward and chubby. I bicycled and swam (synchronized swimming, not the race team). I was not considered an athlete. Academic subjects were a different story. I was expected to get straight As, to do all my homework, to complete the work even if it meant staying up ‘til midnight. And in most cases, that is how I approached school and work. That is how I still approach my philanthropic activities, voluntary classes and writing.
I never imagined my competitive nature would cross-over to sport until I started running as an adult. I was self-taught. I didn’t focus on nutrition, strength training, speed intervals, or the “right” shoes. The running world, especially for women, was significantly different when I started running by myself in the mid-1970s. So much has changed, the environment (e.g., Title IX), the technology (hundreds of shoes to choose from), the multitude of strength and weight training classes, and the running magazines bombarding us with a plethora of what we should do to succeed at this activity.
But it’s more personal than commercial: something deep inside me compels me to want to excel at this sport, even with all the set-backs, the constant rehabilitation, the progression to the senior masters age category. I see talented women runners not much younger than me. Could I do what they are doing? Or is it too late? Should it matter?
I want to get past the pain, fly down the road, and stop beating myself up. Each day that I lace up my running shoes and head out the door to the trail and run with easy movement, steady breathing, and the wind in my face is a good day.
I need to embrace what I can do (maybe my inner porpoise needs to swim with more conviction) and strive to get better (yes, that lurking greyhound wants to make its debut). I would like to run longer distances, shave seconds off each mile, make myself proud of what I can do. I should not be discouraged by what might have been.
Run with joy. A few seconds here or there should not, will not, limit my world view. Celebrate what I can do with privilege and grace.
[My running idol and son, Christopher, at the summit of Pike’s Peak Ascent Half-Marathon. August 2008]