While chatting up a friend I hadn't seen in a long time, we got to talk about a few running topics; some with which I agreed, others where I figured it was wise to quietly disagree in my mind. She and I both haven't run many local events for reasons which spanned the entire constellation of possible de-motivational factors. Most of the reasons she hadn't been racing locally were fairly straightforward. What (gently) got under my skin was when she said, "you're not racing competitively like you used to."
I almost responded with a classic Monty Python movie line: "I'm not dead yet!"
Racing can be uncomfortable, if you do it right. In the case of most citizen-athletes there's that little issue, best described as "the rest of our life." The physiology "smart guys" say the period in which an athlete can run at their peak ranges from four-to-eight weeks, much of that based on how long the athlete builds up to the peak. A longer, more-conservative progression leads up to a longer peak, and vice-versa.
This train of thought and means of training flies in the face of the typical local running scene. Rather than take the time to build base, develop speed, endurance, and strength, most citizens will spend precious time and finances on "social racing."
We're all social creatures; nothing wrong in the quest to determine how we stack up when compared to our peers. The issue comes when our self-worth and self-image becomes too closely tied into the pursuit of the next personal best or the next pint glass. In this neck of the woods the P.R. issue in most cases is moot; place an asterisk by that finishing time, my friend. If that sounds arrogant, forgive me. I tend to know which courses are good to go.
Not to mention the fact that every runner has a bad day; not enough sleep the night before, or they got into an argument with their other half while taking in the morning coffee, or they showed up at the race without time to warm-up...proof we live in a stochastic world, as my college economics professor used to say...stuff happens.
While running is an elemental part of my life the (relative) successes or failures I've had while running don't necessarily make me the person I am. I'm more than the sum total of my marathons, and much more than my local grand prix standings. The only people I have to prove myself to this far along in the game starts with the guy I see in the mirror each morning and extends not much beyond my immediate family.
I'm not haunted by the performances of my past, but I'll gladly admit I am by the injuries from them. That's difficult for some friends I know who have truly "done something" in the running world. A (past) Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier has more "that was then, this is now" hanging over their head than a guy who's struggled to break four without injury. We might not be at every race that's produced, but when we're ready to race and the time is right we will.
Just because you don't see us every weekend doesn't mean we're not still running.
We're not dead yet.