Writing and running in Austin, TX.
Runner’s knee, runner’s toe, runner’s trots…distance runners learn early on to fear all sorts of ailments. This fear is healthy, because any of the above can definitely ruin a race. But there’s an even more insidious condition to fear. It’s one almost all of us suffer from, and one for which there is no known cure: runner’s pride.
Do you suffer from the pride? I bet you do. I know you do. I know you do because I see it every day. I see it in the runners doing laps of the Rogue parking lot at the end of a 20 mile long run because their Garmin only reads “19.89”. I see it in the people who push the pace of the warm-up, the cool-down, even the recovery run. And I definitely see it in the perpetually injured runners who don’t believe in “easy runs”.
Worst of all, I see it in myself.
It’s a little after 1pm, and I just returned from a 4-mile recovery run. It’s currently 96 degrees and sunny, and the air pollution alert level is “orange”. (And here I thought we’d scrapped that whole color alert system.) Emily and I ran a tough 14 yesterday, and I’m coming off of a knock-down drag-out head cold. With a mile to go, I smelled something that triggered childhood memories of the machines that made wax figures of gorillas at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Turns out it was the cover of my iPhone.
Knowing all of this, still it kills me to see that my “average” pace ended up north of 13:00 per mile.
Why? Why do I care even the slightest bit? The pride.
The pride also reared its ugly head in my 3 most recent races. First there was the Capital 10,000, which I ran 3 weeks after the New Orleans Marathon. Coach Chris pretty much promised me I would end up hurt if I even remotely considered racing a 10K three weeks after a marathon. Make it nothing more than a long run, he advised (read: threatened). Of course, the pride wouldn’t let me. Like a devil on my shoulder, it talked me into a “compromise”.
The results? 1:02:58, a 10:08 average pace. A 6+ minute PR. I crossed the finish and immediately began to worry whether Chris would be checking results online.
Even that would not be the end of my pride getting me in trouble over this race. You see, my entry was sponsored by my company, which kept a public wiki of the collective results of all employees. Somehow, by entering my time on this page, I automatically signed up for email notifications every time it was updated. Each new message in my inbox was like another nail in the coffin of my self-esteem. The woman who finished immediately ahead of me felt the need to qualify her time with a note that she was pushing a baby jogger. A 6+ minute PR, and I ended up something like 70th out of 90. Damn you, pride.
Fast forward to late April, and the Schlotzky’s Bun Run 5K. It was the culmination race of a 5K/10K PR program. This time I finished 21st out of 102 in my age group. Beyond a doubt, one of my finest placings. Did I enjoy the moment? No. All I could think of was how I had lost contact with my training partners in the last half mile and missed my PR by 6 seconds. Damn you, pride.
One month later I was at it again. A return to the Solider Field 10-Miler, where I ran a huge PR in 2011. Once again, Coach Chris threatened me with dire consequences if I tried to race hard following an all-out 5K effort and then 4 weeks of super easy base building. Once again, I “compromised”. 1:40:38, a 10:04 average pace. Sound familiar?
Even worse, this time luck was not on my side. The threatened dire consequences finally came to pass, and my old buddy the IT band decided to teach me a thing or two about pride. I was lucky enough to get into treatment quickly and only have to curtail my training a small amount, but I can’t help but feel this was my body firing a warning shot across the bow.
Runners, I urge you to join me in trying to squash this little bug we call pride. Or at the very least, put him in a box and only let him out for those key workouts or races where you really need a little something extra. But a cool-down back to the store after 45 minutes of drills? Or a 4-mile recovery run after noon in central Texas? He’s not needed.
I mean really. Bugs are just gross.