Pretty sure that I’m quitting organised running races (and not just ultras) altogether after this year. A surprise to some, perhaps, but others who’ve read the signs might even be expecting something like this…
While some races (not least the West Highland Way) have played a huge part in my recent life and may well maintain that grip long beyond my competing days, racing’s never been my main motivation to run. As posted to one Facebook group recently:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I’m not an athlete, I’m not a racer, I don’t even really think of myself as a ‘runner’… I’m just a guy who likes running!
My racing was a by-product of my running (in turn a by-product of my rediscovering fitness), but it’s the running I love, not the racing. While undeniable gritty endurance has brought me some respectable ultra performances belying a fundamental lack of pace, the truth is that I’ve never been quick and am already considerably slower at 51 than I was at 41. While some folk happily go on competing and recording slower and slower times as they get much older and slower than me, I just don’t want to do that. I want to run because that’s what I do and not because targeting one day for half the year means I have to shape my life a particular way. I don’t need organised events to enjoy the freedom of the hills and trails, but rather just my own basic fitness (can’t/won’t ever be a 30-something fat slob again!) and imagination. While I have a genuine interest in FKTs (fastest known times) for the classic hill circuits, still count a merely-good-enough Ramsay’s Round among the greatest days of my life, am responsible for maintaining the SHR Long-Distance Records pages and can only consider the likes of Fin Wild’s Cuillin Ridge record with childlike wonder, I’m turned off rather than inspired by some of the events (eg Glen Coe Skyline™) to my mind now crossing a line in what gets turned into a race track. For sure, I know folk who’re excited by the prospect of racing that one and freely admit to having run everything it takes in myself, but (with Curved Ridge and the Aonach Eagach on the agenda) to me that’s a FKT course and not a track for organised simultaneous racing. Inspiring to some including good friends of mine, but indirectly (?) contributing to my growing disillusionment with the racing game if still fortunately free of the hyperbole (‘the fearsome Devil’s Staircase’) associated with the much less demanding Glencoe Marathon.
So I’m slowing down, increasingly unmotivated by racing and increasingly concerned by its use of and/or potential impact on places I’m not convinced it belongs. While I’ve successfully chased ‘respectable’ targets for some races (sub-10 Cateran and Highland Fling), I’m unlikely now to achieve others (sub-20 WHW, sub-2 Ben Nevis, 1:30 half-marathon and 40 min 10K) I’d probably have had easily had I started running ten or even five years earlier because I just haven’t (physically) got it any more and (mentally) no longer care enough to keep putting myself through that ever-tougher mill. Whether I run a sub-20:44:26 PB or 22:49:09+ PW at WHW 2015 is almost immaterial so long as I get my strategy right and give it my best shot because the one’s a pleasant surprise and the other equally probably confirms what I already know. Running continues because running brings so much to my life, but competing’s just not where it’s at for me. Supporting others (you know who you are!) who’ve come to depend on me for their own competitions and challenges, yes, but measuring myself directly against faster competitors or unattainable targets, no. Racing’s never about the ‘taking part’ for me and I don’t like being increasingly bad at it when I’d prefer just to get out there and move ‘unmeasured’ for the joy of it. I’m tired of having to run ‘for’ races when I just want to run, and tired of constantly being tired. I want to get back to doing more climbing, sailing etc. (maybe even get that nasty bunion fixed at last!) without fretting about their impact on my ‘big race’ form. So, while I’m already entered for a few things (WHW, Coll Half, Ben Race, No Fuss ‘Marathon de Ben Nevis’) in 2015 and still currently intending to see them through, I think that’s it.
Now please comment here where your pearls of wisdom can be disputed in a visibly accessible location instead of getting swallowed by the Facebook black hole. That’s all.