I’ve been running/jogging 3 times per week for the past several weeks, trying to get back into shape after years of slothful living. You see, I ran track and cross country in high school, and I used to be pretty darn fast. But I know that I can’t repeat or relive my personal records, my training schedule, or my competitive level from high school. That’s why I’ve decided to do a different kind of running than that which I did in high school. In school I ran the 800, the mile and the 5K. Now I’m training for longer races, such as the Broad Street Run – a 10 miler – in May.
And so today I ran my regular loop – I even extended it slightly – and ran my best time yet. 29 minutes. Compared to previous times of 31 and 32 minutes, I felt great.
But then I screwed it all up. I guess I wasn’t happy with my joy, with my comparative improvements in time, with my newfound success. No. I had to ruin my celebratory mood. Probably some Freudian inability to enjoy satisfaction.
What did I do? You see, I got in my car and drove the loop to see how long I was actually running. Until then, I didn’t know the distance – I just knew that it was a good, approximately 30-minute run. I assumed that I was running 3.5, maybe four miles. No speed demon, but respectable for a 13 year veteran of the couch.
How long was it? 3.1 miles, or otherwise known as a 5K. And here’s the problem. This is the distance I ran in high school every fall Wednesday and Saturday for Cross Country races. Of all the distances I could be running right now, this is the one distance most haunted by ghosts of fitness, race times and personal records. I know the 5K. I know what I felt like when I ran the 5K. I used to be damn good at the 5K.
Today the scenario is different. I’ve slowed from a 5:20 mile pace for 3.1 miles to a 9:30 mile pace. I huff and puff and struggle to reach what used to be my warm-up trot. Why couldn’t I have chosen a different distance, one that didn’t match up so perfectly with my memories of running success?
Well, perhaps it is all for the better. At some point I was bound to test myself, to run a proverbial race against my past. Better get this done now, because I can look myself in the mirror today, tomorrow or after the Boston Marathon, and I’ll never be the guy I was 13 years ago . . . .
On second thought – thank God. He may have been better looking and in better shape, but that guy 13 years ago had all kinds of other issues I don’t even want to bring up here. This pudgy guy in the mirror has much more going for him . . . despite the waistline.