Goal No. 1: Get faster. Keep in mind, that faster is relative -- especially when you're a back-of-the-pack run/walker. I finished my first half with an average pace of about 15:45. I was shooting for 15:00, which was what my Nike Plus app was telling me I was doing. Turns out, it was wrong. Very, very wrong. (It also said I ran 14.7 miles, which, P.S. I did not.) Anyway, while I was running through Miami, I kept thinking about how well I must have trained because I wasn't every tired. Mystery = solved. At first I was bummed that I didn't hit my pace goal, but then I realized "OMFG, SELF. YOU JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON. YOUR FIRST! EVER! YOU! THE FORMER FATTY WHO ONCE BECAME A FIELD HOCKEY GOALIE IN HIGH SCHOOL SIMPLY TO AVOID HAVING TO RUN A MILE. AND YOU WERE NOT LAST. AND YOU DID NOT GET KICKED OF THE COURSE. ERGO, YOU ARE 18 KINDS OF BADASS."
This time around, I have the confidence of knowing that I CAN cross that finish line if I put in the training time. And now I want to see what what this (generally busty) body of mine can do. I'd be THRILLED if I could get down to that 15-minute mile pace, if not under it. Most of my long runs so far are in the 14-minute range. (The runs -- RUNS! HA! -- are generally about 12-12:30/mile while the walking portions bring me up to about 14:30.) And I'd be bowled-over happy if I could pull that off in a half marathon setting. That said, I know my next race will be a challenge because it's a hilly course, especially for a Chicago girl who trains on pancake-flat terrain. (For the curious is the County Music Half Marathon in Nashville later next month.) So we'll see. I'm trying to tell myself that even if my race pace doesn't get much faster, at least my training pace IS.
Goal No. 2. Have fun. God knows I'll never place in a race. I have no expectations of winning my age group. Or even making it across the finish line in time to see the winners get their medals. I'd be shocked shitless if I ever see the day when I maintained a pace in the single-digits per mile. I am a back-of-the-pack Penguin through and through. And that's OK. I'm not doing this to win medals. I'm in this to have fun.
Sure, I know that not every workout will be awesome and every not every run will be invigorating. But at the end of the week, if I'm not having fun then I'm not sure why I'm out there. (Yes, there's health reason, the awesomeness of being outside, the friendships I've formed, and the ability to brag to anyone and everyone that I DID IN FACT DO A TIME TRIAL WHEN IT WAS -7, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.) I cringe at the competitive runner types who beat themselves up for missing a time or falling short of a goal. I want to cross every finish line with a smile on my face. Or at least as many as I can.
I have this great quote by John "The Penguin" Bingham on my desk and I look at it almost every time I'm lacing up my sneakers. If you've been sporty all your life, or are in those first few corrals at a race, or are someone who thinks people aren't real athletes unless they run a certain pace or a certain distance ... you won't get it. But if you're someone like me who's what Bingham calls an "accidental athlete," then maybe it'll make you hold your head a little higher when you're lining up way, way, way, way in the back of the pack at the starting line:
"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
Amen to that and happy trails.