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The Numbers Game

October 28, 2010

Do you know what this is? It’s pure, unabashed joy. It’s also mile 16 of my very first 20 miler. It was freezing out that day, as evidenced by my gigantic Brooks mittens. They really do keep your hands warm.

This was taken several years ago by my amazing coach, the wonderful Don Megerle, who seems to always snap me with a smile plastered to my face.

Exhibit B:

The dude behind me is wearing a shirt that reads “Party”. That might be what I love most about this photo, actually.

I love to run so much, it makes me smile when I do it. During team trail runs, I would be laughing while jumping over things. Really very annoying, I know. But I love to think about it, talk about it, plan schedules and races. I can calculate splits in my head faster than I can add. And like any other competitor, I am always thinking bottom line. What’s my speed? Negative splits? Was I faster than last time? How comfortably fast can I run my long slow distance?

My girlfriend Anne, is a new runner. Talking to her reminds me of all the things I love about running, and that really, sometimes, it doesn’t have to be a numbers game. I am excited about all of her accomplishments. I cheer them on while she runs all over Louisville, and I’m up here in the Boston burbs.

My enthusiasm for her running reminds me not to dismiss my own accomplishments. I’m prone to saying things like “It was only 10 miles” or “It’s just a half marathon”. Faster to me is always a minute faster than whatever I’m running, and long distance is three miles longer than whatever I ran on Sunday.

Without pushing, I finished my first of nine miles on Sunday with a 7:10. As a former slow person, you’d think I’d be thrilled! Instead, I found myself thinking about making it into the 6 range – and not just for sprints! I was thinking that if I ever want to place in a 5K, I’ll really need to shave more time off.

Fearing I’ve been thinking too much about numbers and not just enjoying being out there sometimes, I ignored my Garmin on my Wednesday morning 6 miler. I just went with it – and ran. I zoned out, and didn’t look at it once (a real feat for me). And you know what? The numbers looked good. Real good.

Sometimes we need a little reminder: Don’t think. Just run.

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