2 weeks ago, I ran a half marathon.
I finished in 98 minutes, more than 5 minutes off my Personal Best.
I had mixed emotions at the end of the race.
On the one hand, I was satisfied with the run, especially after the confidence-sapping efforts of my last race – a marathon in which I walked the last 6-7 km due to severe cramping.
On the other hand, it was a race where I really began to question my mental toughness and wondered whether there was an inverse correlation between age and grittiness.
One attribute that I have always prided in myself was will-power – the determination to see things to the end, no matter how difficult the going.
Unfortunately, over the past two races, I am beginning to feel that I am losing that competitive ‘sonofabitch’ edge, that never-say-die attitude.
I know this because, at the 18km mark of the recent half-marathon, I actually SLOWED DOWN. My legs were willing and my heart was pumping but my mind just kept on protesting “Take it easy, fuck-stick, I’m dying over here“!
Deep inside, I know what is required to fix this problem. I need to do more speed work. I need to re-condition my mind so that it is used to the pain that is inevitable during a race, so that it learns to push through that mental barrier and come out the other end, ‘Matrix’-style.
In short, I need to change my weekend runs and reach a stage where the hills are alive with the sound of my fartlek.
Unfortunately, therein lies the obstacle – one that wants me to just run long, at a comfortable 5 minute-per-km pace and treat my weekend exercise as a therapeutical escape.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with that.
Except that my competitive streak begs to differ and wants to forever improve my time in races.
I’m not sure whether this is just another manifestation of reaching middle-age, where you still want to desperately cling to your younthful exhuberance but father-time keeps on reminding you that you’re not a spring chicken anymore.
I guess this is what Mr R. Frost meant when he began: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood …“.
Do I commit to becoming a faster runner, or do I remit to becoming a content jogger?
There is no right or wrong answer here, of course. But that won’t stop me from thinking about it this weekend, when I will either be running long or painting the hills alive with my fartlek.
Keep on pounding.