I am experiencing a bit of a runner identity crisis. For those of you that read Shelly’s blog, yes, I
stole was inspired by her posting on the same topic. I was also inspired by Kate Kift, Christian Peterson, and Josh Sutcliffe.
Here’s the problem- I no longer seem to care about the results of the races I run. Here’s a brief rundown of the races I’ve run since the Burning River 100 last July, along with the results:
- Fallsburg Marathon- very slow finish (something like 5:30 if I remember) that should have been a DNF as I got lost and wandered off the course,
- North Country Trail 50 miler- DNF at mile 25,
- HUFF 50k- abysmal finish time and a vow to never do the race again due to the cold,
- Mind the Ducks 12 hour- about 25 miles.
In each one of these races, I either stopped to hang out with friends and drink beer OR kept going because everyone else was still running. At first, I thought I was in a physical slump due to overtraining. Three weeks before Burning River I ran a 68 mile training run, then hammered out a “fast-for-me” kick at the end of BR. Fallsburg followed two weeks later, then NCT two weeks after that.
I assumed I would rebound by taking it easy over the winter. I was lucky enough to be selected in the Western States lottery, and expected to ease into my typical 100 miler training schedule. That never really materialized. Try as I might, I cannot muster the motivation to train alone. Every one of my significant training runs have been with at least one other person.
Over the last few months, I’ve tried to diagnose the issue. Maybe it was illness-related. Perhaps it was a bit of depression over a less-than-pleasant work environment. I could have been the shitty cold Michigan winter that seemingly lasted forever.
Shelly and I have talked about this before, but her post about her Mind the Ducks experience really hit home. I knew exactly how she felt during the race that led her to decide to stop before the 12 hours was up. Continuing on just wasn’t fun.
This has led me to an important conclusion- I have no significant running outcome-based goals left. I am not motivated by improving my times at any distance. I have reached my original goal distance (100 miles), then did it again to assure the first wasn’t a fluke. I may try one of the really long distances some day, but I don’t presently have that interest.
This brings up the question- why keep running? This is surprisingly simple… it’s fun. I love running in cool new places. I love running with my friends. I love the atmosphere of races. I love helping others reach their goals. I care more about having fun with the people that matter the most to me, not trying to complete with others or myself. I’m okay with that.
What about Western States? I was never going to win. If I would have trained extremely hard, I may have been able to break 24 hours. As it stands, I will probably be lucky if I finish. I’m okay with that, too. I look forward to Western States not as a challenge to be conquered. Rather I see the race as an opportunity to experience the grand-daddy of ultras, meet a bunch of cool people, and run all day and all night on some of the most scenic trails in the world. I’m not looking forward to finishing Western States, I’m looking forward to experiencing Western States.
I don’t know what this means for my future competitiveness. I don’t think this lack of motivation to drive myself is necessarily permanent, it’s more of a transient state. I’m sure the life changes Shelly and I are experiencing have something to do with my competitive apathy. Once we get on the road, my competitiveness may return.
How about you? Are you competitive with yourself or others? Does that competitiveness ebb and flow?