It is a truth universally acknowledged that a runner in possession of working legs and a Garmin must be in want of a new PB.
Or is it?
On Saturday I had parkrun down as a ‘go for it’ session, one of those rare days during marathon training where I get coach approved licence to say ‘sod it’ and just run as fast as I can. Usually, this means my approach is to try to break my parkrun PB.
This also means, in turn, that I run a fast parkrun even less often than it says on my plan, because unless I feel in really good form I won’t even try it.
I wasn’t sure what to do this Saturday. I was feeling alright, if not 100%, but I did fancy a nice fast run. After a rare and entertaining false start off we went. At the beginning my legs seemed to be in charge regardless of what my brain wanted to do, and they had definitely decided to go for it! I actually took my life in my hands by cutting around the pack on the grass to avoid getting boxed in. I don’t usually do this because I leave my specs at home when I run and I have absolutely no depth perception. This makes for a feeling of mild peril and much hilarity during cross country season.
Anyway, I was feeling pretty good and even managed a few ‘good morning’s along the way. I kept a good pace up and managed negative splits for the first two miles, thinking of nothing but the run. Then I started to get distracted by a bit of a shoulder stitch, and then I got a bit more distracted by the phlegm gargling habits of some of my fellow parkrunners, and then I got even more distracted by thinking about what I should write about next on my blog. I allowed myself to slow down a bit and eventually finished in 28:37, which is still a really decent parkrun for me.
On the way to get a post parkrun coffee I started thinking how I was really happy with that time, because I’d been very stiff at the start after Wednesday’s session (40 minute wait for a bus in the cold after an 8 mile run anyone? No, me neither), and that I was still carrying the remains of my arse-itis.
And then I had a bit of a word with myself. What I was doing was making excuses about why I had not PB’d that day. Which was stupid, because I had put in as much effort as I could regardless of the circumstances.
What I should have been doing was congratulating myself on having done my best on that day, whatever the time.
Since last Sunday, my training sessions have been a real mixed bag. Last weekend I completed my best ever long training run of 20 miles, bang on training pace, feeling pretty good throughout. On Wednesday I struggled horribly around a hot and humid 8 miles, and the resultant stiffness in my calves lasted through a tough hill session on Thursday (which I still managed and did not wimp out of) before my good parkrun on Saturday. In each of those sessions, good or bad, the performance I put in was the best I would have done on that day.
To cap the week off, yesterday I had a shocker. I was hit by a really horrible migraine on Saturday – seriously, I thought I was having a stroke at one point – the remnants of which are still hanging around now. I was due to run 18 miles, which I knew would be ambitious, and opted for laps near my house in case it all went wrong. I cut my run right down to 8 miles when it became clear I wasn’t going to get any less dizzy anytime soon.
A week ago I would have been chucking a fit about this; taking 10 whole miles off my long run with just 7 weeks to go until New York? How will I go on? That’s it, I’ll never do it now! The whole thing’s ruined!
We’ve all gone through these sorts of moments, having a paddy until we calm down and realise these sorts of histrionics are even more unhelpful than they are embarrassing. My training plan has over 500 miles on it. Give or take 10 will make no difference whatsoever, but running yourself into the ground when your brain is wobbling like Hannah Cockcroft’s exploding jelly will.
Athletes at all levels strive for more, faster, better but that doesn’t mean you have to get a PB on every run.
What about those who are struggling with ongoing injuries, or people who have to change their approach to training around a medical condition? If they will never again beat their previous times should they just give up? I’m sure we would all say that’s nonsense.
Nine days out of ten you’ll have an ache or a pain, you can say you’re stiff, your leg hurts, it’s hot out, or its ‘just not my day’. That’s just life, and it’s what makes those PB’s all the more precious when they do come.
My parkrun epiphany really helped yesterday and I’m going to try to keep up this way of thinking, especially if a run is hard. I didn’t hit any of my training targets yesterday, but I did the best I could on the day and that’s just as valuable.
So you might start seeing my posts tagged with #todaysbest, if I’m happy with what I’ve done. Join me if you want. It feels pretty good.