Why It Mattered?

I believe the below quote pretty much sums up where I have been about my running over the last week.

It wasn’t enough to know the who, what, when, and where; you had to understand what it meant. And why it mattered.”

Mckeown, Greg. Essentialism (p. 74). Crown. Kindle Edition.

After last week’s 5K time trial, I needed some time before writing about why something as simple as a routine time trial mattered that much to me. I didn’t want to do my usual knee-jerk reaction and then gloss over the “why.”

I needed to process – Why it mattered?

In many ways, I have been dreading facing the moment that happened last week.

Yet, when I look back, I know that I have subconsciously and sometimes consciously avoided this type of run and, yes, races where they would have made me face the reality of how much my times have fallen off over the past couple of years – COVID-19 notwithstanding.

After all, many of us equate our times to our progress or how “good” a runner we are. Therefore, if our times do not meet our expectations, we seek ways to improve those times. However, finding the correct balance between ability, fitness, and reality has always been the sticking point for most of us, well at least for me. 

While I like to think that I have a pretty good handle on my ego. At times, I know that I identify with Harold the Runner more than I should. While I don’t have too many delusions of grandeur left and have never been anything special as a runner, I still pride myself on running decently for my age group locally.

That 5K time trial result shot that vision of myself completely to hell once I saw the time I had run.

As a result of all that – do I feel like the stereotypical bumbling old fool, who, despite the evidence before his eyes, wants to believe that he can turn back time to keep running “better times” as he gets older.

Not really.

Still, it is tough on the ego, and you always have a flicker of hope in the back of your mind that maybe if I train with this plan/device or get that a different pair of running shoes, something will bring back the glory years.

They won’t.

While I might be foolish, stubborn, and the old elevator may not always make it to the top floor, I am not stupid. I knew without much doubt that it was just a question of time before my age caught up to me. I know that I needed to go through this experience (I think most of us do) and get smacked upside of the head with my actual performance, not the one that I had playing in my head. I had to see that slower 5K time.

Yeah, the reality of aging.

Yes, that 5K time trial got rid of all the fuzzy edges of what aging is doing to my running prowess.

Does it mean that I give up and go eat bonbons on the couch?

Oh, Hell no!

What will I do?

Keep running, of course.

Yet doing the same routines and wishful thinking will not get me where I want to go. Although I do believe that I have room to significantly improve the 5K time trial results. But only If I do the work, train properly, and use a little common sense.

What are the things that I need to do?

  1. Take a long look at my running priorities. I know areas need to be changed due to COVID and other shifting perspectives. This is something that I will be doing over the next few weeks.
  2. Enjoy the fact that I am still running and able to compete if I chose to. However, I have to stop competing with the runner I was or might have been. This has been one of those ongoing things and something that I will continue to work on.
  3. Stop making outlandish goals or predictions. Yeah, they sound cool, but they also make me look and sound like an old fool or a pompous arse, who is losing touch with reality completely. I may be an old fool, but I manage to keep one foot, in reality, most of the time.
  4. Train smarter. Let the injuries heal and do the work to maintain what skills and abilities that I still have for as long as I can.
  5. Continue to learn more about how the body/mind works, improving my running, and, yes, the aging process. Keeping current with new ideas, theories, and practical aspects that will be useful for me going forward.
  6. Do the mobility, balance, and strength work that I have mostly avoided throughout my life as a runner. I know, doing those things will not help me regain my lost youth or speed, but they might let me feel better when running in the future.
  7. The one that I know affects me is eating better. I have a pretty good-sized sweet tooth, chips have always been a comfort food, and my portion control needs to be controlled. Ice cream is its own food group, but I have cut back quite a bit on that already.

None of these are earth-shattering or even new for me, but each year it becomes more apparent that to achieve my primary goal to still be running in 20 years, I have to incorporate them into my lifestyle, not just my running life.

Most of all – I need to do, not try, think, dream or fantasize about doing the work. As Master Yoda says. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.

The reality is that

I am not an old fool who doesn’t accept that he is getting old. I know that I am and see it in the mirror every day. Even so, I sure as hell am not going to run out, buy a fancy car, start doing the bar-hopping routine or pay to have lovely young tarts hang off my arms. That ain’t who I am and doesn’t interest me. Actually, I feel pretty sorry for those old people who think they have to go out and be that person. It usually isn’t them either.

My focus is on living a quiet but healthy life. One where I get to enjoy my family and friends, along with doing way too much running.

To answer the question “Why it mattered?”. The 5K time trial results forced me to look clearly at where I am as an older runner. To stop deluding myself and make me focus more on what I need to do now.

Who knows, now that I am not hiding from myself, maybe I will make it to a few more races or time trials to see where I really am as a runner – now, not who I used to be. However, I believe that there is a lot of room for improvement to the 5K Time Trial results from last week. 

Living well is about learning from our mistakes, and I made my share leading up to the time trial. Fortunately, I still have opportunities to make changes, and while the process I will go through to make improvements will most likely be a convoluted one (I know me), it is still a process that I can be successful at. 

I also know that I am not the first and will not be the last runner to go through the changes that aging brings to our running and experience difficulty accepting the new normal.

Keep smiling and running, I plan to.

5 thoughts on “Why It Mattered?

  1. As much as we study training and believe that it matters, I think we all believe deep down that we can run whatever our own benchmark might be at any time based on nothing but native talent and force of will. 🙂 In my 30s, I could run a decent 5K any day mainly because my runs were all pretty close to 5K races anyway. That’s the biggest thing that’s changed. Probably none of us wants to hear “trust the process” one more time but it seems like you’re getting somewhere. Hang in there. Speedwork actually does work. Once you’ve gotten your legs back under you and you can crank up the intensity, it’ll come back.

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    1. Yeah, in our younger days, training was seat of our pants, unless you were a “coached” runner and then you had someone putting training plans together for you. I never got that good and the best I ever did was a few Runner’s World plans back in the day. I am attempting to be a bit more organized and do the work, but still will never probably run the slow speeds that heart-rate or power based training wants you to do for easy/recovery runs. Intellectually I know how it works, but once I get running an 10:30 to 11:30 pace really doesn’t interest me in the slightest, unless I am trail running. So I guess I should do my easy/recovery runs on the trails hehehehee. I have a feeling I will get the 5K time back down a bit, but I also know without any doubt that my legs don’t have that same snap as they did even a couple of years ago, but I still want to see what kind of runner I can be, but have more fun while doing it. 🙂 I love the speedwork part of the training plans, it is the slow stuff that drives me knackers. hehehee

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      1. Yeah, it took a while before I came to understand–and to accept reluctantly–that I needed to be able to run a true “Zone 1” pace if I really wanted to improve my endurance and aerobic power. I needed to teach myself to run at an effort level low enough that I could do it for a couple of hours with minimal fatigue and heart rate drift, because that’s what Zone 1 is. But 11 minute per mile pace is a tough pill to swallow, for sure. The people who write about it do us a gross disservice by calling it “easy” when it’s anything but easy to make ourselves do it. It’s literally been a multi-year project getting to where it’s comfortable if not exactly thrilling and I’ve tried to think about it almost as cross-training, as if I was learning a new sport. It does seems to make a difference though, not to be using my fast running mechanics at every moment of every run. I’m matching the mileage that I ran in the ’90s, and with more time on feet and more steps of course because it’s slower, with no more than the usual occasional niggles since before the pandemic started, knock on wood. I need to try a 5k time trial one of these days myself and see where I stand. Indications are mixed but I might be in better shape now than three years ago when I ran my “old man” PR, 24:46. I’ll be the baby in a new age group later on this summer–gotta make hay while the sun shines!

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      2. Yeah, all of what you said is true and at age 64 (in August) I will be slowing down to speeds at some point in the not so distant future. So it comes down doing at the beck and call of a device or waiting until it comes about naturally. I think I will let my Stryd catch up with my fitness as it returns and make it a game to see if I can make their current Zone 3, my new Zone 1. That is my natural easy pace and with Father Time being more of a factor each year, I am going to run to enjoy it more than I am for serious training, although I do take my training seriously. If that makes any sense. I am not sure where I will be at the end of the summer, but I have a feeling that I still have a few surprises left in the legs as long as I am not too stupid.

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