In the running lexicon “personal record” and “personal best” have the same meaning: your best race time at a specific race distance distance. But as I was running the .US National 12K this weekend, I realized that we should recognize a difference. By the 5K point I knew I wasn’t going to set a personal record, but I dug deep to give it my personal best.
Even though this race is a national championship race with elite runners and significant cash prizes, it’s still a relatively low-key event with easy logistics. Leaving the house at 7:00 for a 7:55 race start is a rare treat!
As I headed into the corral for the singing of the National Anthem, I noticed the police presence, and especially noticed one officer facing the oncoming runners instead of the stage. I assume he was scanning the crowds for safety issues (I’ll leave it at that), and was grateful for his diligence. While I always appreciate when an officer stops traffic while I cross an intersection, I felt more aware than ever that their primary role is public safety.
So, about that personal record. When I checked my results from last year (1:01:05, 8:11 pace) I thought I had a chance of at least matching that pace, but knew a lot would depend on my right piriformis/ITB. It started to act up about 2 weeks ago, before the Race To End Women’s Cancer 5K, and had been pretty cranky after that personal record. I tried to bribe it with plenty of time on a lacrosse ball, foam rolling, and a sports massage, but as I took a few minutes to warm-up before the race, I knew it was going to be an issue.
My first few mile splits were a hard-fought 8:05-ish pace, but after that my pace got progessively slower: 8:19, 8:28, 8:41; 9:02. It was really hard to keep up my motivation after I knew I wasn’t going to match last year’s results, but I tried to put some tactics from The Runner’s Brain into practice.
I found myself thinking that the out-and-back course along the parkway was boring, and reminded myself that it really was beautiful.
I found myself discouraged that I wouldn’t be setting a personal record, and decided that I could still make it a personal best.
- The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year (and an 8:05 pace the year before on a different course) didn’t have a cranky ITB.
- The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year hadn’t run an 8:24 5K the previous weekend.
- The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year had done longer, faster training runs.
- The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year might have been in better shape, slept better, fueled better, hydrated better, or just had a better day.
When I realized that I couldn’t match the personal record I set last year because I wasn’t the same person I was last year–or least not in the same condition–I was able to shrug off my disappointment and run the best race I could run. Isn’t that what a “personal best” should mean?
Yes, the medal is massive!
Today’s Wednesday Word is cherish. Now that my last race of 2015 is in the books, I look forward to cherishing the simple joys of running, and a few months of chasing sunrises instead of personal records.
Do you struggle with always expecting to do better?