The stealth goal

My last post was all about focus and goal-setting and perspective, all around my latest half marathon.  I didn’t reveal my outcome goal so I could see how that felt.  And?  It felt good.  Interestingly, after I made the decision not to tell my outcome goal, no one asked me about it.  Maybe it’s because I imploded on this course last year and no one wanted to freak me out about it, or maybe it’s because no one really cares.  They were all too busy focusing on their outcome.  Whatever the reason, it took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.  Funny, isn’t it, that most people are much more interested in themselves rather than me!

So, outcome goal met:  2:07;59.  My husband refuses to let me say 2:08.  Apparently he’s quite attached to that one second.

There was a goal that I didn’t identify before the race.  In fact, I didn’t identify it during the race.  But it will be a specifically identified goal in all future races.  It’s that important.  It’s really the ultimate goal for me when it comes to running.  I had a glimpse of it back at the run in DC in March, a peek in April, but I got it last weekend.  That goal:  have fun.

Yep, simple as it sounds, having fun is not a given.  In fact, with all the talk of race pace and PRs and time trials and prep races and speed work, quite frankly I can forget that there is great joy to be found in the middle of a group of people who are out challenging themselves physically and mentally.  I can forget that there are people who come out to cheer the runners on just because they think it’s cool, or they like the cause, or maybe just because we’re tying up traffic.  I forget to look around me and see the same sights from a different perspective.  I forget to see my other runners who are doing the very same thing I’m doing. 

So what’s been different for me?  Well, letting go of the outcome goal is the start.  I have run with one goal and one goal only.  I collapsed on the finish line when I did.  So when I ran in Florida, I slowed way down to make sure that didn’t happen again.  My parents were there, and the goal was for them to see me cross happy and healthy.  I struck up a conversation with another runner in my pace group.  I talked to the kids working the race with their parents.  I enjoyed the finish through Cocoa Village.  I was still thinking about time, but the run was easier and more fun.

So I tried to keep the same attitude at National and at Cherry Blossom.  For both, I cheered for the spectators who were cheering for the runners.  I let out a spontaneous yelp through the tunnels to hear my own echo.  I yelled “go vols” to the guy with the UT cap on, and “Blue Jays rock” to the woman with the JHU sweatshirt on.  And I laughed when she didn’t know what I was saying but her boyfriend did! 

But I had somehow forgotten that when I started the race last week.  I was focused on whether I could stay slow enough at the start to pay attention to what was going on at the start.  I was well into the second mile when I saw a man with a Portuguese water dog on the side of the road, obviously looking for another runner.  I suddenly realized that there were other people out with me on this run.  And then I saw a friend waiting at the relay transfer spot, and I suddenly connected.  It was as if a light bulb came on.  I remembered to thank the police and the volunteers.  I high-fived the little kids who was out looking perplexed at all these adults running by their houses.  I commiserated with others being challenged on the hard climb.  I screamed like a banshee when I saw my friends who weren’t running but came out to cheer us on.  I saw my husband’s pink t-shirt and smiled.  I enjoyed the crowd on the rail as I finished on the horse track.  I remembered to thank the cancer survivor who gave put my medal around my neck, grateful that she there to remind me that the race exists not for me to chase a personal record, but to raise funds for the cancer center where she was treated.

In short, I suddenly remembered to have fun.  I love to run.  I love it even as I hate it.  I love it when I don’t think I can go another step, and I love it even more a mile later when I know I didn’t give up.    All that is part of the solitary process of running for me.  What is becoming obvious to me, though, is that I have a choice when I run, especially in races.  I can keep everything and everybody out and “just run my race,” or I can embrace the unique aspects – people, places, and things – in a race.  The former can be truly rewarding, don’t get me wrong.  But, just as in life, it’s only when I open up completely that I finish with a smile that comes from deep down inside of me.

So from now on, when I make my list, “fun” will be #1 on all my lists.  My guess is – and only time will tell – that if I stick to that goal, some of the others might just be easier to attain.  Hmmm…

Next race – and last long run of summer – in three weeks.

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