The kind of runner I am

I am competitive. I like to win, and I hate to lose. That's a huge reason behind the successes I have had in running and whatever else. I used to think that was good, but now I'm having my doubts.

I used to tell myself that I was competitive when I needed to be, and that I knew a friendly competition when I saw one. Then I started getting so angry playing Mario Kart (64, of course) that I had to make myself stop playing. And then a year or two later I argued with a good friend of mine about who had the slowest time on a particular frequently-run course around Baltimore. He rightly said, "I think that was a low point in both of our lives."

I didn't understand him at the time, or at least I didn't fully understand him at the time. But, now I'm starting to. Do you think I'm moving in the right direction? Sure, with the preceding evidence, I think anyone would say "yes", but there is a price to pay.

Some time after May 31st, 2003, I lost my drive. I thought I would still have it when I needed it, but I'm pretty sure it's gone. Not once in the last five years have I commited myself fully to something, running or whatever. The question stays perpetually in my head: "is it worth it?" I haven't won a race that wasn't easy to win, and I've even let people pass me at the very end of a race without much of a fight. My training is weak; when it starts hurting I shut it down and cruise in. I rarely grit my teeth anymore. I have become a recreational runner, a social creature that runs for reasons other than running itself.

I don't want to quit, and I still have some desire. I am also 100% sure that I could run a PR at any distance, this year if I really put my mind to it. My PR at 3000m back in February proves that, at least to me. But I really need to get my mind set on something, and that's hard. It's hard to go to a race by yourself after training primarily by yourself and convince yourself that this race matters. Often, it just doesn't. Nobody really cares except me. I mean, sure, people care, but not that much.

And this, what I'm writing right now, made me realize, right now (as in, after I finished writing the last paragraph) pretty much proves my theory (because I wasn't 100% sure) that my main motivation for running is to show people who doubt me that I can. That's right, I do it for the haters.

I won State in high school, twice, because two years before hardly anyone believed me when I said I would do it. Back then, I admitted what kind of competitor I was in a conversation with my mom, before the 1998 Ohio High School Cross Country Championships, which for all of high school was the race as far as I was concerned, the one I predicted I would win two years before. I told my mom I wasn't sure how I'd find motivation after the race because, hey, what happens after the end of the world? I won, set a PR, and achieved everything I ever wanted.

But I proved that my worries about post-race motivation were well-founded when I didn't have very good races in the post season, and even more so when I lost the 3200m the following spring, and didn't care too much about it. I even told people that, since I got second place, if I had to pick who would finish ahead of me, it would be him, the guy who won. But then a week later I had to silence the haters who thought that guy truly was faster than me by beating him in a post-season race. See? I need haterz.

The people who drive me to extreme training, because of their Hater status, number only a few, perhaps only two. We have the legendary (only locally) Reis, and Germany's weird-running hero, Thomas Dold. Even Reis is falling slowly off the list. He used to create a pure will inside of me, spawned from his attitude (such as calling me a cheater for beating him after not leading a race very much, and simply being an unfriendly jerk), but I'm running out of opportunities to prove to him that I can beat him whenever I want, so I kind of have to forget about it. With Dold the fire is pretty much still there, and thinking about him during my WR attempt at 3000m backwards gave me access to another level of pain tolerance I hadn't used in a while (but still isn't the level of "back in the day"), simply because he's arrogant and I'm faster than him. I love tearing arrogant people down in fair competition. He still has six WRs while I have only two, so I'll have to get working on that. I also am considering trying my hand at tower running (or stair running, whatever you want to call it) just so I can put him in his place there, too. He's pretty good at it, though, the best in the world, actually, and he earns quite a bit of money and fame doing it. I have no idea how easy it would be for me to beat him at that, and that's what gets me going a bit: that it's a matter of training for me. I train properly for a year; I beat him. It's that simple in my mind now, but I don't want to train for running up stairs for a year, so maybe I can get away with a couple of months of half-assed training like I do for backwards running. Who knows?

The point is that there is a serious lack of good running competitions around here, as there is anywhere. There were definitely more in the Baltimore/Washington area, but even there, usually one of my friends or I would win. The really good get-your-ass-kicked races happen there maybe three or four times per year and here twice, at distances under the marathon. That's the way it is, and I've been waiting for those races. I wait no longer. I'm going to run the not-so-good races, but everyone knows it's no fun to tool on the locals at normal road races. I mean, I'm embarassed to run more than twenty or so seconds in front of second place. So, that means I have to explore other options.

First of all, I'm running a marathon with my brother and his friend on October 19th on the island of Mallorca in Spain. The winning times have been 2:31 and 2:36 for the last two years, so it sounds like a good first marathon for me. Second, I'm finally going to run a half marathon, and I've picked a few out for before and maybe also after the marathon. Should be fun. Like I said, I'm also considering tower running, for which there's a race in early November not even five kilometers from where I live. And, after talking about mountain running with some friends last weekend, I think I'm going to give that a try, too. Those 10-20km races are either uphill-downhill or downhill-uphill with some amount of elevation change, usually from 300m to 800m. About three times per week I run a 15km loop with over 200m elevation change, all of which is in the middle 7km, so I think I'm already fairly well prepared. I'll have to find a race to run on a weekend I have time.

So, I'm no so much a runner any more as I am a running adventurer, because I hope to try all sorts of new things. I just hope I don't have to go by myself, because even fun races are no fun without friends around.


RM said...

Bri, I think you're missing something. We do things because we genuinely enjoy them and probably more for the company they bring. I realize it's been a tougher road for you abroad in that respect, because if you were here right now it would be ridiculous. And it's as simple as setting new goals. When you aren't defining your goals, you don't have benchmarks and you think about the "what-ifs" and things like "potential" and "doing your best."

You still have the ability to set actual real PRs, not just post-collegiate ones. If you want it, you'll make it happen. If you don't want it, there's nothing wrong with keeping the prizes of the past, as long as you're able to move forward. It's like when you talk to Bobby Van Allen, who is always "going to get back in shape one day."

So maybe you're onto something with the tower records (ha) but don't let others be your main motivation for doing something. If you really want to do it, then go for it, but don't do it out of spite.

In the grand scheme of things records are just something we as a race created to make ourselves feel better. They'll get broken, sooner or later, and the old record holders fade away.

Just be awesome every day, that's all we can hope for.

fbg said...

But I genuinely enjoy beating people. People who think they are awesome, but are not.

And I have goals. Or, I should say, I had goals, but I didn't achieve any of them, really.

I think you're right in that's it's a problem with location. I want to bust skulls, but I want to bust skulls with my homiez rollin' with me. I had more fun getting my ass handed to me at my last Celtic Solstice than I did running a 3k PR in February.

Basically, I gotta figure something out. Why doesn't TTWSS relocate to somewhere closer?