With the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon coming up this weekend, I’m in that place where I think about my goals. Complete or compete? I always say I’m showing up to complete. I don’t keep my turtle-pace a secret. At my best, I can hope for a 2:30 half marathon.
So to those people who will ask me if I won, no. No I didn’t win. I didn’t even plan or aspire to win. Neither did loads of other participants. And that’s why I love finishing medals. (See my post about why participate if I’m not going to win?).
I’ve had a series of interesting awarenesses about a tension that lives in me between competing and completing. I want to feel content with completing. I mean, that’s something in itself — to finish a half marathon: 21.1 kilometres. Right?
But at the same time I would like to run faster. If I compete, I’m my own competition. (see Sam’s post on “Who’s the competition? She Is”). Don’t we hear that a lot. Who doesn’t love a personal record? Does it really even matter where we stand relative to others?
Well, I’m not sure, but what’s behind the feeling is that there’s something wrong with being slow. I had an emotional moment yesterday because as I worked on the book, I had to re-read my posts from my big triathlon summer in 2014. Specifically, my race reports from Cambridge, Bracebridge, and Lakeside.
And though I value those accomplishments and look back on that time with some kind of awe, I felt sad too because in every report I talked about how long I spent out on the course and what it’s like to cross the finish line in the bottom 10 (or less). As I said to Renald when I spoke to him about yesterday, weeping (okay, we’re also in a deadline crunch and it’s getting to me), it’s humbling when your biggest aspiration is to make your way out of the bottom 10.
In a post I wrote in 2014, where I reflected on my identity as a slow runner, I reported on a really helpful article, “If you run slow, who cares?” by marathon coach Jeff Gaudette. He talked about how almost every time he starts coaching someone, they say “I’m probably the slowest person you’ve ever coached.” People, no matter how fast they run, feel embarrassed at how slow they are.
In my own case, I feel that. I literally experience a sense of shame and inadequacy over my lack of speed and seeming inability to ever get faster. I want to just enjoy my activities, to care more, or even only, about completing than competing. But then something in me also wants to see “progress.”
In the weeks leading up to the half marathon, we’ve all been talking about wanting to finish. But we’ve also got some aspirations — Anita and I would like to finish in 2:30. Julie says she doesn’t care (I never quite believe her — she can run so much faster than me).
Rebecca and Violetta said they were all nervous about doing a half but both have done the distance in training in shorter order than I have ever realistically hoped for. And Violetta doesn’t even take walk breaks!
And so those thoughts rear up in my again: I’m slow. I’m going to hold people back. Blah, blah, blah.
I really don’t mind running alone, so when I tell everyone they can feel free to run ahead, I mean it. But then that wave of shame washes over me because, dammit, I feel as if I should be able to keep up with people by now. Why am I so slow?
I do this in the pool too, and it’s not just me. I see how reluctant the women in my lane sometimes are to take the lead. As I slacked in my commitment to swim training over the past year, I’ve fallen behind. I feel worse when I’m holding someone up than I do when I’m bumping up against the person in front of me.
In my “‘Too slow’ for what?” post I talked about the way that kept me from running with a group for the longest time. Now that I have found my peeps, those group runs are what it’s all about. What joy to have a group of women who I can go out with regularly to do something we all love to do.
It’s also held me back from cycling (it’s not the only thing, but it’s a thing).
Back to completing or competing. It might get back to what the overall goal is. Do we want to go out and have fun? Is competition part of what makes it fun? If so, competition against whom? Other competitors? Your own past selves for a personal record? What about not caring at all and just doing it because you can, results be damned?
I worry too that we’ve got this thing going on in our social world where you have to strive to be better all the time. And we get it loud and clear that there’s something wrong with you if you’re not making that attempt.
Yes, we hear counter-messages about acceptance and being “present” etc. What’s wrong with that? Just going out there for the fun of it, regardless of the time? I found myself worrying about getting held up if others needed a bathroom break. But why? What difference does it make?
This rambling post is my attempt to (1) talk myself into doing Niagara just for the fun of it and (2) stop feeling a sense of shame and inadequacy over not being fast. It’s bullshit.
I’m in it to complete. I’m in it to complete. And have fun. And hang out with some awesome women. My little crew. And a few thousand others. And Kathrine Switzer.
And the medal.
And the t-shirt!
I get a lot from other women’s wise words. I’d love to hear your thoughts on completing and competing.