It is so funny how your perspective changes as you become a runner. When I first started this journey two years ago, a long run was five miles. I remember clearly how amazing it was to me to finally say, “I only ran five miles this morning” or “today was an easy six.” I was so nervous before my first double digit run. Each week during that first marathon training, I ran a little farther than I had ever run before. My frame of reference for distance has changed so much since then.
In that first year of running, no matter what I did, I ran ten-minute-miles. It didn’t matter if it was two miles or seven, I ran between 9:40 and 10:20 every time. Somehow, over the miles, I found myself going a little bit faster. As my endurance got better, so did my speed. After I was done with that first marathon, I found that I could focus a bit on my speed. Two months ago, I ran a marathon averaging just over nine minutes per mile. What a change!
But no matter how far you go or how much faster you get there, someone is going faster or farther. When I ran my first 25K a few weeks ago, I ran it in just over three hours (a 12:15 average pace). The winner of the 50K, the Alaskan Assassin, ran his race in just over four hours (a 8:29 average pace)! Heck, that is right around my pace for my half marathon PR (and that is on a relatively flat road). As amazing as that was, I read recently that one of his teammates ran a 100 mile race in 13:23 (an unbelievable 8 minute pace!!!!!)
As fast and strong as these guys are, they still struggle with the same issues that the rest of us do. Evan, the awesome dude who broke the Malibu Creek course record, wrote on his blog how he will never be an “elite.” He knows how strong he is, how much training he puts in and how his genetics play a part. As unbelievable as this may sound to the rest of us, even running studs sometimes struggle with self-doubt. Many of my “middle of the pack” friends write very similar posts (even though this guy is lapping us on these runs). It all has to do with individual frame of reference.
The other day I had a nice slow run out on the trails. I felt really good about the run, where I averaged a pace just shy of 11:00. On the other hand, when I was running on the river path averaging just over 10:00, I felt super slow. For some reason, when I am running off road, it is fine to go nice and easy, averaging much slower. I felt great about my 25K where my pace was slower than any of my training runs. How I feel about my pace is definitely relative to where I am running.
What this long and winding post is saying is that I have learned that nothing is absolute in running (or in life, for that matter). Perspective changes. It changes over time. It changes due to those around you.