Eternal PB Chasing

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Runners, I’m sure you’ll relate to this: as soon as you finish a race, what’s the first thing people ask you? ‘What time did you do it in?’ You haven’t had a moment to decompress, evaluate your race experience, pat yourself on the back for your performance – but you gotta tell the people what they wanna know: your time.

Yeah, can we stop this already?

Look, I understand that in running, time is the most basic of metrics to measure your progress. When you first start running, seeing your times decrease the more you do a certain distance, definitely gives you a little pep in your step. But inevitably, as the months and years roll on, you’ll plateau. It happens to everyone. And then, because you’re not seeing ‘improvements’ i.e. you’re not getting faster, your love for running dwindles. Then you fall out of love with it. Then you complain about it all the time; how you’re not in the mood, you’ve lost your mojo, you can’t be arsed. I see it happen all the time. Such an inevitable cycle and really, if all you care about is how fast you go, your running journey won’t be more than peaks and valleys of ‘times I was fast’ vs ‘times I sucked.’

It’s a problem that predates us. Since the dawn of time, faster equals better. When we were hunter gatherers, it’s unlikely that the guy who was dawdling at the back, enjoying the scenery was as popular as the dude who killed the meat. I get it. But you know what? Times have changed and we run for different reasons now.

I absolutely get the importance of setting goals (with anything in life). Having something to work towards and measure your progress by is great. But truthfully, I can’t recall chatting to someone who was in training to knock a few minutes off their PB time who was actually enjoying it. Of course, not every moment of training is going to be rainbows and unicorns – you have to push yourself to your physical limits to see results and that surely ain’t pleasant. But let’s keep it in perspective, shall we?

Unless you’re actually a legit Olympic hopeful, why is your time so important to you?

You achieve the time you hoped for and then what? You set another target, achieve that, and then what? Inevitably, when you plateau, you’ll end up in that cycle of losing your running mojo, because chasing a time is pretty damn tiring (for you, but also for everyone who has to hear your extensive break downs of minute miles and race plans – snooooooze fest!)

Being fast is good, but so is being slow, or mid-tempo – the most important element here being that you got off your ass and did it. I don’t care if you ran a marathon in three hours or six, it doesn’t mean the person who did it in three put in more effort.

The mental benefits of running are well documented. More and more people are running now for reasons that have nothing to do with times or PBs. Be it stress relief, meditation, anger management, to spend more time outdoors or just to be more active, any of these reasons make running enjoyable and necessary for many and people who do it for those reasons have just as much right to be on a race course as the speed demons.

So rather than asking someone what their time was in a race, allow me to propose some alternatives: How was the course? Did you enjoy it? What was your favourite bit? Did you find any moments of peace? Did you leave your stress and worries on the road? Did you feel more connected with your self? With nature? With the people around you?

As someone who was previously obsessed with chasing times, I’m glad that era of my running career is over and I now run for the sheer joy of it. The only time I’m concerned about now is having a good one.

Comments
5 Responses to “Eternal PB Chasing”
  1. As a total non-runner I admit to doing this. Will try to remember to give runners a breather once in a while now!

    http://thee-middlesister.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/o-my-bag-interview.html

  2. Lucy says:

    AMEN!

  3. Andrea says:

    I love this and agree with every word. I did my first marathon this year and all anyone asked me was “how long did it take you”?

    During all my training my aim was always to get around (relatively) comfortably, have fun and soak up the atmosphere. And I did that, and I loved it!

    So all power to the idea of the only time to chase is a good one.

    xxx

  4. I love this, I am definitely in a similar mindset, and am absolutely over racing for times, it’s completely missing the point of what running should be about.

  5. Artur says:

    Personally, I hardly ever ask about other people’s times. Running performances are influenced by so many factors, many of which are low-level and not visible to the naked eye, so that other people’s times are basically irrelevant.

    People run for a variety of reasons, most probably for multiple reasons at the same time. It’s tempting to emphasise the one which happens to be the dominating one for us at the moment, but I don’t think that’s fair – we just have to accept that no one reason is better than the other. If it consistently gets someone out of the door at 6am – great, why not. There is no single thing that running is ‘about’ – it’s an ever-changing motivational mix unique to each runner. Enjoyment and consistency are key, and different people enjoy different things.

    Part of the issue may be the fact that many runners esp. beginners run their easy days too hard. A good plan will have majority of runs at easy, conversational pace, which leaves plenty of time to just enjoy it, so enjoyment and improvement can happily co-exist.

    After a few years law of diminishing returns does start to kick in, but it’s still possible to continue to improve (lactate threshold can still be increased at quite a ripe age, for example). Also, improvement it’s not just about pace – it may be speed of recovery, distance, terrain, technique, fewer injuries etc. You may not be an Olympic athlete, but if you’re enjoying your training and improving on last year, there is nothing wrong with that.

    Overall, I’d say, problem is extremes rather than PBs.