At the expo before Rock and Roll Seattle last month, John "The Penguin" Bingham shared an insight he gleaned from an elite marathoner about the link between running times and performance. It made an inkling of sense then, but with added pondering, it's even more of a gem now.
Probably safe to say that many, if not most, amateur runners, base their training around the setting of race time goals. Come race day you could ask them what their goal is and the response would be a certain finishing time. Trouble is, if I understand the elite's practice quoted by Bingham, setting one's finishing time before hand and then trying to get that day's performance to match, is doing the whole thing backwards. Bingham said the elites, while surely knowing their time capabilities and those of their true competitors, actually are more concerned and in tune with how their bodies are responding to the task at hand while racing, and therefore allow their ability to perform in that moment, as compared to those around them, to dictate their results. In short, their performance dictates their time, not the other way around. Seems to me that frees one up to enjoy the ride of the marathon, instead of looking at it as anything close to work, or a chore, or something that has to be conquered.
I had been thinking about this this morning before tuning into a radio interview of a philosopher/poet. He was asked about the poetry writing process. Long story shortened, he replied that, for him, poems evolve, with some sort of life their own, and that sometimes the poet's job is to just go along for the ride and/or get out of the way, rather than try to get the piece to end up somewhere that's been pre-determined. He said it's like raising kids, in that parents may have grand ideas for their offspring, but the trick to helping them be successful in their own lives is to do the basics, then to fall back, and watch. I would say, having helped raise two awesome stepkids, fall back and prepare to be amazed.
Linking these two (or is it three or four?) stories together, became almost effortless for me this morning when I realized that I have been unknowingly applying these principles, in varying degrees, while running my 12 in 12 marathons.
I really do like running with other people, but when it comes right down to it, I like running alone the best. The reason for that is that when I am running a marathon I am married to running "my race". It's easier for me to accept what's happening if I'm not having to worry about anyone else's. If you are faster than me I would encourage you to leave me behind and run yours. If you are slower, the same applies. If we both manage our own event and we end up together all the way, that's great. However, there will always be enough post-race beer to go around, regardless of our finishing order.
I am hoping to become more of an artist as I keep running 26.2 mile races. I have no interest in being blinded by the science of it all. I have vivid pictures in my head of the places I've run and the people who've run near/with/in front of/behind me. I have seriously almost forgotten most of my 27 finishing times. Most, mind you, not all. I have broken 5 hours once, and that number's tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. Each one of those races has its own stories. My "goal" is to get out of my own way so I can live many new ones.
Starting with my hometown marathon, San Francisco, next weekend.