People come to running in all different ways. Some pick it up later in life, some start running before they can walk, and others somewhere in between. No matter when you started racing or why you started racing, there will come a point where you will never be as fast as you were before.
The scary part of this life fact is that you don’t know when that time will come. You don’t know you’re peaking until you’re on the other side of that peak. So how do you stay motivated and re-frame racing once you realize your fastest days are behind you?
Lauren Fleshman is a a former USATF 5,000m champion who competed at the 2003, 2005 and 2011 world championships. Fleshman published a blog post yesterday that outlines her return to racing as a recreational runner. While not everyone competes at the level Fleshman used to, lots of runners can relate to racing without the goal of running a lifetime personal best when a personal best is no longer in the cards.
Fleshman writes, “Now I am retired from elite racing, and I’m finding my way back out onto the starting line of the recreational running world. This world, in addition to all the good stuff it offers, is also full of judgment, in particular about bodies and aging. Standing on a start line with your fastest days and your most idealized body behind you and still daring to give it your best on the day is challenging for many because it requires self-acceptance.”
Fleshman writes that wrapping her head around competing without the goal of getting faster was a challenge, but she’s now accepted that fact and is loving racing again. “My running and my racing is my own, and freed from the expectation of improvement, it is easier to be with my body and my breath, to push against my edges, to give my best effort on the day. The time on the clock is like the weather. I take it into account but it doesn’t get beneath my skin.”
The runner and entrepreneur’s blog post is a reminder that running and racing aren’t just about the time on the clock. When you’re running for yourself, the outcome of a race is a small percentage of what the sport brings to your life.