Friday, June 10, 2011

Running Slower

I started running ten years ago, during the summer of 2001. Prior to that, my only running experience was eighth grade cross country -- where I was probably in the lower quartile (I don't remember for sure), and found the experience to be painful and frustrating.

I tried running again twenty three years later, more as a way of quickly burning calories than anything else. Yes, it still hurt a bit, and I wasn't particularly good at it (story of my life when it comes to athletics), but I found a certain personal challenge that revved me up. I was hooked, and worked hard to improve my form, economy and times.

I ran in my first race that fall -- a 10K. I remember being happy to finish it in less than an hour. I really liked the racing aspect of running. It wasn't like I was going up against elite athletes, or anything. I enjoyed the social elements, and competing against my own times.

My high water mark from a race performance standpoint was in 2005, when I ran the Chicago Marathon. I think at least half of my race personal records are from that year. Even though I trained more miles for some future marathons, I was never able to equal my performance in that race. Alas, it was a mere six minutes short of qualifying for Boston.

I kept reaching for better times until the fall of 2009, when I started to have some serious problems with my left knee. After going through denial, I eventually had to cut my mileage way back. It's taken me a year and a half, but the knee is again solid, and I'm trying to figure out what to do with running going forward.

I wouldn't say the enjoyment is over, but I definitely don't look forward to a ten miler with the same degree of excitement, and sometimes it seems like a downright chore. Unfortunately, I'm much slower than I was before -- my 2001 beginner self could probably beat my experienced 2011 self in a race right now. So where from here? It seems, inch by inch, I'm leaving the ranks of (semi) competitive racing, and rolling into the casual runner ranks -- with lower miles, no speed work, and slower paces. Getting older sucks.

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