Measuring 2011 Success: More Than PR’s and Mileage

As 2011 comes to a close all of the yearly mileage counts and new (or still old) personal records will be archived as another new year to bring us new running, training, and exercise adventures and goals.  As we prepare to do it all over again – the planning, running, signing up for races, traveling, getting nervous, balancing schedules, watching what we eat – it’s easy to look back on the year and qualify all of 2011 as a success or a failure.  It’s also easy to do so based only on PRs and final mileage counts … but running success is a lot more than numbers.

Personal records – it’s what all competitive runners have memorized; most even know the exact race, place, and conditions their personal record was set.  It’s one of the best feelings in the long grind of a training cycle or year to finally top that one PR that has been soft or hung around forever.  Beginning runners, young and old, building year to year can count on breaking their PRs often as they progress into a more experienced runner with more and more mileage under them as the years go by.  But as those years go by and you begin to reach your full potential, setting PRs can be a lot more few and far between.  Coming off of a slew of PRs in 2008 (8k, 10k, half marathon, & marathon debut) I was injured early in 2009 and frustrated after a disappointing marathon in fall 2009.  Again I logged no PRs in 2010 despite running more mileage than I ever have in one calendar year (3480 miles).  One could call 2010 a failure; it was not.

2010 was one of the most incredible years of my life as my son was born in April prompting a shortened spring racing season, but yet another disappointing fall marathon (8th at Marine Corps) which I had to stop and walk due to cramping hamstrings.  That race was not fun, but it was no failure.  Despite the cramps, buckling legs, and walking I never gave up; I trotted past The Pentagon in the final miles feeling ragged and numb.  I looked to The Pentagon and remembered my grandma who had once worked there – she had just passed away 4 months prior to this race.  Her pain towards the end of her life was intense; it was now my time to embrace my own pain and keep it together as best I could.  My other grandmother had suffered a car accident only 3 months prior to the race which induced her mind to suffer multiple strokes and her body to be dependent on a wheel chair.  There was never an option to not finish.  My body begged me to stop, my mind told me it was too painful and I wouldn’t PR anyways … my heart told me those things didn’t matter and to finish the race I started and do so proudly. There is more to running success than PRs.

Fast forward to 2011 – on paper the most “successful” year I’ve ever had with personal records in 5k (8 year PR dating back to my college days), 10k, 10 mile debut, and marathon.  2011 included running less mileage than 2010 by about 10% but I feel as though I’ve been training smarter.  With the work/family/running balance that needs constant juggling I’ve learned that smart marathon training running ~80-85 miles/week is more effective for me than pounding out 100 miles/week.  I would have never learned that lesson if it hadn’t been for 2010.  I also wouldn’t have researched more and learned how to fuel more properly during the marathon (with advise and feedback from fellow UWEC fossil and ultra runner Joe Uhan).  I also found myself recovering better while running slower – something I could do while running with my wife and pushing my son in his jogging stroller.  After 15+ years of running, I’ve found a new way to make it fun and fresh!

Four weeks after my new marathon PR at the challenging Twin Cities course I ran Marine Corps again in hopes to break into the top 5.  I ran an even pace and set myself up to pick off as many of the leaders dropping back later in the race as I could.  As I entered the final miles I thought I had reeled myself into 6th place and that’s where I would finish.  My legs were once again dead in those final miles and as I passed The Pentagon again I could do nothing else but continue to press towards the finish line.  I crossed again ragged and strolled to meet my lovely wife and friend Dee who were so excited seeing me finish 5th … wait, what? 5th?  I reached my goal – I was 5th, not 6th as I thought I had been the last few miles.  Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve reached your goals until you’ve blown by them … always take time to celebrate new PRs, but also look for new beginnings and different ways you can reach and enjoy your successes in running and life!

Cliff Notes:

  • PRs don’t define you
  • Running is more rewarding than logging miles … seek out the rewards wherever they pop up!

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