I was working my slow-but-steady way up a killer hill on my running route, when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to see my neighbor churning up the hill behind me.
“Hey, there!” I said.
“Oh, good. I didn’t want to startle you,” he said. ” I always worry about that when I come up behind someone to pass them.”
“Yeah,” I said with a smile, as he swiftly moved by me. “That’s not a problem I have to worry about!”
He laughed and we exchanged a few quick comments about the first day of school (he’s a teacher, too) and then he was out of earshot, zooming down the road.
I felt myself picking up my pace, instinctively responding to his lead.
“But wait,” I thought after a moment. “What am I doing? I don’t even want to go faster.”
I deliberately eased up a bit, sliding back into my regular pace.
Speed is so attractive, isn’t it? It seems like a solid measure of accomplishment. I suppose you could argue that it wouldn’t hurt me to run faster, and it probably wouldn’t. But I’ve worked hard to be less focused on the numbers in running. I no longer keep track of the miles I run, I don’t time myself, etc. I am just out there because, crazily enough, I enjoy the process. It’s good for my body and my brain. Running faster is something I’ve tried and not enjoyed. It’s not a good fit for me, at least not right now. So why would I get pulled back into that vortex just because the roadrunner spun by?
There are many things you can work on as a runner–form, speed, distance, etc. I’m a very casual runner. To be honest, much of what I’m working on when I’m running is my writing. I tumble thoughts and words over in my head, searching for combinations, sparks of ideas, trains of thought, etc. My goals for restarting running this summer were pretty basic and looked something like this:
- Don’t injure myself
- Run frequently
- Gradually increase distance (and that means from 2 miles to maybe 3.5)
I’ve done well with these goals and I’m perfectly satisfied with my less than record-breaking pace…until someone comes along and breezes right by me.
This moment reminded me that it’s all too easy to get pulled off course by a speedy runner, a flashy new idea or the pull of curricular demands. As school starts today, I have a few solid goals in mind for the year. These goals are tailored to my strengths and needs and will certainly adjust to meet the strengths and needs of my new class. And sure, I’m flexible and open to new ideas coming along, and I know I need to meet the demands of the curriculum, but my run yesterday reminded me that keeping my goals in the forefront is important — pursuing someone else’s goals, not so much.
So when that speedy runner or bright new idea comes along, I have to consciously remind myself that I’m doing what I need and want to do. Their agenda isn’t necessarily mine. But it can take some work to remind myself of that.