Running the perfect race requires many things. It needs the right route, the right temperature and occasionally even comes down to what you eat for breakfast that day. Sometimes, they all come together at the right time. But no matter the case, I find it's always invaluable to breakdown every race performance in order to identify areas where you can improve. Last week, I stood on the start line of the 2022 Vancouver Half-Marathon (formerly the Scotiabank Half) in what was my first race is nearly a year. I went in knowing that I had a less than ideal training season due to residual effects from a bout of COVID-19 back in April in conjunction with an ongoing heel injury I sustained a few weeks back - again likely due to the rushed training schedule. With these things in mind, I knew that I was unlikely to run a personal best but I also knew that showing up that day was a necessary part of getting back to the running routine I so loved. Competition is important because it places you in a situation where you have to tie your training together in a timed environment. It forces you to dig deep.
Competition is important because it places you in a situation where you have to tie your training together in a time environment. It forces you to dig deep.
The feeling of competition is something that always reminds me of why I got started with running to begin with. From the excitement of cheering onlookers to the nervous silence in the 20 seconds before the start of the race and even the collective sigh of relief as you get to the top of a steeply graded incline along other runners. I run to challenge myself and to constantly push to become better. I run to breathe deep. To see what's left in the tank in the last 100m stretch before the finish line - sprinting to the finish despite knowing that it would have a negligible effect on my overall race time. Competition is something I take part in to bring out the best in me.
I run to challenge myself and to constantly push to become better. I run to breathe deep.
Having run what I know to be a mediocre half-marathon time, my real moment of insight was that I wanted to do it again. My legs were sore, I felt what seemed like the beginnings of a sun burn on my shoulder and I physically doubt I would have been capable of it - but I wanted to go right back out and run it again. I've completed half-marathons in the past where I was in a sense "glad" to have finished. Perhaps due to an extended training season or simply feeling accomplished, I've felt ready for a break. But it was different this time for some odd reason. As I slowly walked over to grab my post-race goodies (shout out to Athletic Brewing and Tubify for the treats!) I realized that the itch that was usually pacified by completing a race - wasn't.
And this was where I had my eureka moment. Feeling the itch to get it back, was confirmation to me that I was getting back to form. Physical attributes are not what makes the runner because every race will push you to the brink of what you are capable of. And whether or not you have your perfect race, you can always push yourself to the full extent of your capabilities. I've long said that what makes a good runner is not the physical prowess but rather - the stubbornness. The stubbornness to not give up, to ignore the aches and pains, to go run when it's raining, to not settle but constantly push to best your own time.
While the 2022 Vancouver Half-Marathon goes down in the books as my 3rd worst half-marathon time, I am content with what transpired that day. It was a day that renewed my love of running and desire to compete. It was a day that reminded me of the hunger you need in training and the discipline it takes to compete at the upper echelons of racing. Instead of feeling discouraged watching elite runners pass by, I itched to get back in the lab to figure out the combination of factors that will get me that elusive - perfect race.