The alternative title I considered for this post is “She Who Hesitates” because I, dear reader, have been hesitating.
Maybe you can tell. I haven’t been running as much in the past two months as I was at this time last year. I have been running, but the commitment I’ve made to the sport feels nowhere near as serious as it was last year. In 2010, I decided that 2011 was the year that I would break two hours in the half-marathon. I knew I could do it, and I wanted that victory. For those of us who run for fun, achieving a race goal can feel rather arbitrary. Does anyone care if I finish in 2:00:00 or 1:59:59? Anyone other than me, that is? But for those of us who run, I think we know that deep down, it does matter. Not because we’re saving lives with our running—I hope that I’m saving or at least helping lives with my professional efforts, eventually—but because the ability to set your mind on a goal and reach that goal is success in its purest form. The meaning you attach to that success is up for debate, and I believe that’s true for all types of success. Sometimes I take the long view of life, and I think that no success is without cost and drawbacks. You just had a healthy baby? Congratulations! Oh, your child is now displaying sociopathic behavior? Let’s hope he doesn’t grow up to become a serial killer. Perhaps that is a rather unpleasant example, but it just goes to show that success is relative, ephemeral, of the moment.
In the wake of my sub-two-hour half-marathon this year, I’ve been feeling unsure about what’s next for me. The 2011 Armadillo Dash was such a wonderful race this year. Not only did I run my fastest half yet, I had Matt there with me at the end. It was so special to share that experience with him, inasmuch as a runner can share a race with a non-runner. So many little things added up to make me feel so loved and supported: that he didn’t mind sharing me with the Dash, that he didn’t mind getting up early on race day, that he delivered me to the race start and then kept himself occupied until my finishing time. Matt was such a good sport, and I’ve tried to live up to his example since then. (“Oh, you want to play golf on a steamy day in June in College Station? Then you want to take your stinky, sweaty self back to my apartment to take a shower? Sure, go for it!” That’s romantic, right?) I’ve been learning that love is giving someone what they want with a smile and a “Go get ‘em, tiger!”
I feel like the next Armadillo Dash will be disappointing in the wake of 2011’s race. And that makes me sad. I’m bummed that I haven’t been focused on a new PR, and I’m bummed that I’ll almost certainly be running the 2012 race without a handsome man waiting for me at the end. I’m bummed because I feel like 2012 can’t live up to 2011, so I’ve been at a loss as to what I should do.
In spite of my disappointment, I’ve been trying to rally. I was on a little roll there in October before I went on vacation, fitting my runs into the day and feeling stronger every time I laced up my sneakers. And this month I’ve had two really good runs recently and I’m feeling more optimistic about getting back into a running habit to take me through the winter months. I talked to a new friend recently about the Dash, and she wants to run it, so maybe we can run it together, which would be a new and different way to experience the half-marathon. I’ve run all three of my halves alone, and running it with a friend would be such a joy. I don’t know how fast she is—we might be incompatible if she’s running 8-minute miles while I’m running 9+-minute miles, but it’s worth considering.
Most of all, I’m trying to accept that while I won’t be able to repeat the experience of 2011’s Armadillo Dash, I can make some new memories this year. Maybe I can find some running friends, or run in new places, or even just mix up my work-outs like Sunday’s run doing laps at the park. Just like some runs will be amazing and some will be routine, each race is different. There’s something really freeing about just doing your best and then letting go of the outcome.
2012 Armadillo Dash, you’re on notice: I will be there. I may not run a sub-two half, but I will be there, and I will finish, and it will be fun, dammit. That’s all I really want for now.