This piece of advice keeps coming up on my radar screen. It is a piece of advice with which I have a hard time. I think this is because in order to put it into practice, I must change my mindset from one of a recreational runner/racer, to one who chases "A" races, PRs, age group wins, and slots to Clearwater and Kona.
These two mentalities are extremely different. I actually think the recreational runner/racer mindset is a more healthy and life-embracing mindset. When one adopts the chaser mentality (for lack of a better term) he/she becomes increasingly self-focused. Working out is about a goal, and folding in the social, spontaneous, carefree disposition of the recreational athlete hinders movement toward that goal.
For the last few years I have been racing with reckless abandon. My GNRC group will be go to a race and I can't help but join in. The more people racing the harder it is to say no. I know so many people at races now it's become a huge party--a party which allows me to stay fit, socialize, and get away from the humdrum of doing laundry, making lunches, and correcting papers. Many of my runner friends also love running tough races--the tougher the better. We run a tough race, bond about the conditions, the hills, the distance--we share horror stories over a post-race beer or during training runs for weeks post-race. (Chicago stories, for example, have only recently abated.) These friends race all year, no break, no periodization. It's not about that. It's a life-long hobby--not necessarily a deliberate, calculated movement to achieving self-perfection. PR-ing is fun, but not the point and usually not realistic given aging, non-stop racing, and an insatiable appetite to run, run, run.
So can I change? Do I want to? Sometimes I feel so clear about this. I think, yes, I want to change. I never have tried to maximize my potential. I want to know what I'm capable of, I want to know if there is a ceiling for my achievement. I want to do this before I begin sliding down the age hill. I am 37. I don't have much time. Other times I take a step back and look at the time I spend thinking and planning my workouts, the money I spend on equipment and coaching (not yet--but it's in the "plan"), the time my focus takes away from my family and work, or the serious nature of the pursuit, and I think, What are you doing? Why can't you just play? Why does it have to be about maximizing potential? Who cares if that 5k ruins your "training." It's fun--it's exciting! It's in your hometown! How can you say no?
Can I chase the dream for a few years, and then let go? If I do achieve the dream--Clearwater, Kona--will I eventually be able to let them go and return to the life of the recreational runner?
Today I met my GNRC group for a trail run. It was slow and delightful. I loved breathing in the chill, fall air. It will be hard to give up the spontaneous run in favor of the scheduled quality workout. It will be hard to give up the freedom of doing whatever, whenever, and not regretting it.