I recently ran my slowest half marathon, but I was actually quite proud of the result and it led me to reflect on why I feel that way and how you, too, might find ways to be proud of a slower race time.
I ran my first three half marathons progressively faster: 1:31 in 2011, 1:26 in 2013, and 1:25 in 2014. Unfortunately, a stress fracture forced me to take an extended break from running following my 2014 PR.
If I’m being honest with myself, I wasn’t particularly happy between 2011 and 2014. I was taking my running way too seriously, and it had a trickle down effect on the rest of my life. At this time, I was also taking everything else very seriously and not allowing myself to have much fun. I should have been soaking up those years of teenage freedom, but instead I was spending hours every day running and thinking about running. And whenever I wasn’t thinking about running, I was thinking about food and nutrition. I had an unhealthy obsession with my fitness and food, and something had to change.
Looking back, the stress fracture was just the wake-up call that I needed to take charge of my own health for once and for all. It helped me realize that although I enjoy running, I don’t need it to feel fulfilled. I started to experiment with other forms of exercise, and realized that I love yoga and high intensity interval training just as much as I love running. Once I was finally ready to start running again, I started back in a very gentle way, running without a watch and not keeping track of distance or time. Running by ‘feel’ was a game changer because I fell in love with the sport all over again. That childlike joy that had long since been forgotten returned and I felt free to run as much or as little as I wanted.
Come early 2018, armed with a more balanced outlook and a renewed competitive drive, I felt ready to race again. I felt strong, but not as fast as I was in my late teens. I was prepared to be okay with a slower time, as long as I was able to stick with my training and finish the race strong. I registered for the Ottawa Half Marathon and ran it for the first time in five years. While I finished in 1:37 (12 minutes slower than my PR for the distance), I was totally okay with the result and honestly quite satisfied given the fact that my only goal had been to finish in 1:45.
All of this is to say that you, too, can be proud of a slower race time. We can focus on aspects of the race that are process-related rather than time-related. Merely finishing a distance race is no small feat, and it is something to be proud of in and of itself.
We are far too hard on ourselves, especially us runners who often have highly competitive personalities. We are so lucky to have the ability to run, and the opportunity to share that experience with thousands of others on race day. Those are the aspects that I now prefer to focus on, rather than on arbitrary time goals that I have set for myself.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this!