I remember a time, back when G and I were training for our first Richmond Marathon, where we said to each other, "Wouldn't it be so awesome to just run eight minute miles and have it be no big deal?"
At the time, we were logging a lot of runs somewhere between a 10:00 and 10:30 pace. It felt hard. 8:00 miles seemed light years away. But, we kept running. Even if we'd never be fast, at least we were having a good time.
Fast forward two years to the present, G and I are training for another Richmond Marathon. It will be her 3rd marathon and my 6th (NYC will be my 5th, just six days prior). On Sunday, we met at MTT for a 12 mile run (I'd go on to run 16). It was just a typical group run, except for one thing. It was only 54 degrees outside. A huge departure from the 75 degree starts we had become accustomed to.
We started with the posse and Birch, who has a tendency to quicken the pace. Right around the end of the first mile, I tried to reign in G by saying, "Um, this 8:38 pace is great and all, but some of us have 16 on the schedule today." I think she missed my comment, but less than a mile later, she had separated from Birch and we fell into a comfortable pace. So, comfortable, that I didn't look at my watch again for seven miles.
By mile 9, when I finally checked our pace, G and I had split from the rest of the posse. Some were running faster, some slower. As my Garmin, clicked over from 8.99 to 9, I looked at it and asked G how she was feeling. She said, "Really good, actually. You?" To which I replied, "Yeah, I feel great. Weird, because I'm pretty sure we can't talk at an eight minute pace."
We both laughed. The pace on our watches: 8:08
In May of 2009, my 5K PR pace was 8:29.
Somewhere in the last two years, we became those runners who could run an 8:00 pace and have it be no big deal. Yes, by the end, it felt hard. It should. It's running, not napping. I finished that 16 miler with an average pace of 8:35 and buckets full of pride.
Afterwards, I got to thinking. People ask me all the time why I run so much. I usually just say, because I love it, which is true. But, Sunday's run really exemplifies why I run.
I run because it allows me to push my limits and continually improve. It gives me a firm, measurable achievement. It shows me that hard work pays off and that I can be better than I was yesterday.
I don't run to be thin. I don't run to eat. I don't run to get away from it all.
I run to be better. A better athlete. A better mother. A better wife. A better me.
It's as simple as that.