For years now, I’ve viewed every successful endurance event in which I’ve competed as a victory lap.
Sometimes, viewing a race as victory lap means treating race day as a celebration of several weeks of disciplined training in which I’ve pushed my mind and body to their absolute limits. But just as often, it means celebrating the fact that I kept running through difficult circumstances; that I was kind to myself when life seemed unkind; and that I worked hard not to compare myself to others—including my past, faster self—and simply focused on running the mile that I’m in right now.
That’s the spirit in which I prepare for the Surf-n-Santa 10-Miler on Saturday. I signed up for the race in part because I wanted to relieve any pressure I may have felt on Philadelphia Half Marathon race day on Nov. 18. I hadn’t been able to train for the race they way I wanted to, and If I wanted a speedy run, I figured, I should shoot for a slightly shorter run a few weeks after the half-marathon.
The thing is, though, running fast just isn’t that important to me right now.
Here’s what is important to me right now: using running, and races, as a way to spend time with other fitness-minded friends and to honor my mental and physical health. I didn’t only sign up for this race to give myself a chance to test my speed, but because the race sounded like an absolute blast. The other J&A Racing event I participated in, the Wicked 10K, left me feeling excited and motivated to run more, and I wanted to feel that particular post-race high again. I also wanted another cool race T-shirt (a technical half-zip!), another serving of soup from the Baker’s Crust, and another post-run party with several thousand of my closest runner-friends, most of whom happen to be wearing costumes.
So this particular victory lap will be a celebration of the fact that I have managed to keep running through a difficult season, and have mostly (with a notable exception of mile 7 in Philadelphia) been kind and compassionate to myself as I ran through it.
My motivations for running on Saturday have shifted, so naturally, my race plan changed, too. My plan: Run the first 5K easy, likely around 10-minute miles, only running sub-9-minute miles if a mass murderer enters the course and chases me. Hold steady through mile 7, speeding up only if I feel good to the point of boredom at my current pace. If, and only if, I feel amazing, may I “race” the last 5K. If I’m already pretty tired when I pass the seven-mile marker, I simply hold steady and make it to the finish line however I can. My main goals: Feel strong. Have fun.