Then, one day, out of the blue, we are going... faster!
It's a little miracle concoction of dedication and physiology and adaptation. You keep running. Your running muscles get stronger. Your blood volume increases. Your body even builds new capillaries to feed those new muscles with all of that new blood.
Your heart gets stronger, and moves more blood with every squeeze. You are turning into a machine, one that converts oxygen and carbs into a blur that looks like you, but faster. (And maybe thinner.)
It's a great feeling. You see yourself differently. You are different. You're not a plodder, or even a jogger. You're a runner.
And then, usually while you're patting yourself on the back, another runner blows your figurative doors off. They pass you like you were tied to a Brinks truck. They go by you so fast, you need to look down to make sure you aren't going backwards by mistake. Your speed is closer to the speed of that stump over there than it is to that guy's.
"Pop" goes your balloon. Gone is that feeling of invincibility. Gone is the athlete in the mirror. You're not fast after all. Just faster than you used to be. Which is still pretty slow.
Well, kiddo. I say, "Buck up!"
Fast is relative:
- Some days I'm faster than other days.
- On average I ran faster last year, but not nearly as often.
- I bet I am faster next year than I've been in five years.
- My fastest day this year is a lot slower than my fastest day 10 years ago.
- My average day this year will probably be faster than my best day 20 years ahead.
- I bet if you put us against each other today, I'm faster than most of the guys who beat me in college.
- I beat people younger than me in every race I enter.
- I get beat by people older than me in every race I enter.
- Today, one of the guys in our group wanted a "slow" day, and he beat me by several minutes.
- Three years ago, I routinely thumped that same guy.
The point is that, as runners, we aren't really racing anyone but ourselves. We might spend a summer racing, trying to beat people who beat us last summer. But in the end, we are competing only against the voice in our head telling us we should probably slow down.
Unless you're on the couch, you are fast. And those other runners, those who's fast is a little faster than yours, support you. They started slow, too. They were where you are, once. They also know that one day, your fast will be their fast, too.
You are fast. Fast for you.
So don't judge your pace against anyone else's. Your pace is yours. Theirs is theirs. If someone passes you, give them a "Go get 'em." When you pass someone, encourage them with a "Rock on." or "Looking good."
And be as kind to yourself as you run, improve, learn, speed up, slow down, and especially on those off days when things just aren't clicking.
Numbers: 4.4 miles on streets, kinda fast, for me.