There comes a time in every runner's life when he no longer gets faster.
I don't believe I've reached that point yet, but in truth, it's probably not that far off. Marathon runners tend to peak in their mid-thirties (nobody tell Meb), which is why that's the point when the Boston Marathon's qualifying times start to ease up.
With only a limited time to get faster, I've always been the type to push too hard, too soon and end up injured, as I have often documented here. Combine a competitive nature with an impatient temperament, and you've got me, limping through a recovery run before taking roughly 4 months off until I finally make the choice that I'm going to rededicate myself once again. Pretty familiar, particularly if you've read this blog.
Of course, you certainly haven't read this blog very much in the last couple years. In the years 2013-2015, I wrote a total of 32 blog posts. I've already written more posts in 2016 than I did last year, and in fact, since May of 2012, only one month has had more posts than the present one.
Now, why is that? Mostly, it's because this is a blog about running, and when I don't run, I don't blog. The last couple years have been inconsistent with running to say the least. My actual numbers are sitting on a crashed hard drive, but it's safe to say that since the St. George Marathon of 2013, I have not consistently been able to call myself a runner. Off and on, sure, but not across the board, and not with the sense of pride that I used to have.
The last few weeks have been different. I started up again in mid-November of last year, right around my birthday, and kept it up for about a month. Then the holidays hit and I went dormant again, but this is the part where it changed: I got back at it. I didn't just stop. For once, I took a short break and then returned, and I'm feeling pretty good about it thus far.
I've had my struggles, of course. It took a lot of encouragement (both self and from the wife) for me to hit the pavement this last Sunday, but I felt phenomenal after. I'm remembering more and more what that feels like when it's tough to get out the door, and I'm getting out the door.
My times, to be sure, are slower than they usually are for the shorter distances. I'm averaging a good 45 seconds behind my standard target for 3-5 miles. And that's okay. Part of it is that I'm running very early in the morning most days, and I'm giving my legs time to warm up and not just taking off at the gun. The other part is, well, who cares? My next (likely) race is five months away, and I can't forget that I'm still building a base. I can't be great yet, and I know that. So what can I be?
I can be better.
Better means more consistent. Setting a routine and sticking with it, even on those days when I really, really don't want to.
Better means smarter, slowly strengthening muscles and not allowing myself to fall into the trap of too much, too soon.
Better means well rounded, doing my yoga, keeping my journals, writing about how I'm feeling and (likely) writing about things not related to running once in a while to keep the habit up when perhaps I've got nothing constructive to say about exercise. For example, I'm reading Ulysses by James Joyce. Running a marathon is easier.
Better does not mean faster. Not yet. That will come with time. For now, it simply means stronger, mentally and physically. And it means when that alarm goes off tomorrow, I've got no excuse.
Not if I want to be better.