I should probably explain the title of this post a little. I was running with a friend of mine the other day and he asked me two questions. The first one was, "how long have you been running on a serious level?" The answer to that is simple, it's been about 2 years and a couple of months since I really got serious about running again. The second question was, "ok, in that time, have you become a better runner?" In my haste to answer that question I blurted out something about not having gotten substantially faster in the past two years, but I have improved my stamina/endurance, yadda, yadda, yadda. The question stuck in mind though and I've been giving it more thought over the past few days and I think I have a slightly more nuanced answer.
With regard to the actual speed of my running - my answer is complicated by my expectations. Simply put, I would love to be running faster than I am right now. I think all runners want that, but I feel like my progress with regard to speed has been particularly slow. My first 5K after my return to running was in May of 2011 and I ran a 21:27. My latest 5K this past October was a PR at 19:06. So I've shaved about :46 per mile off my 5K time in 2+ years...I'm happy with that, but all things considered, I think I still have a lot more room to improve on that. As a side note, I know that I've spent much of the last year training for a marathon and that I haven't done much speed-work at all, much less running towards 5K goals. I think that if I really focused on improving my 5K times, I could make some pretty solid gains pretty quickly.
Without a doubt, this is the area in which I have improved my running the most. A couple of years ago, I thought running a marathon was a super-human feat. I would always say, "I have no interest in running a marathon." Then I ran my first half-marathon earlier this year and thought to myself, "hmm, maybe I should just try it? Maybe?" So I signed up for the Chicago Marathon, trained all summer for it and completed my first marathon in October. Now I want to run another one. Funny how that happens. Anyway, I went from running 20-30 miles/week before marathon training, to regularly completing 40-50+ mile weeks throughout the summer. In terms of things that I'm proud of in my life, completing the Chicago Marathon is up there near the top. A year ago, the longest single run I had ever done in my lifetime was 9 miles. Crazy.
With anything, the more time you put into it, the more you learn about the nitty gritty details. Through books, blogs and talking to other runners, I've learned a TON about running over the past 2 1/2 years. I've read books by Jack Daniels, Danny Dreyer, the Hanson brothers, Lewis Maharam, Ryan Hall and others and spend hours talking about running with other runners. This has increased my awareness of the details of the sport itself. I've learned a lot about things like the importance of hydration, the physiological benefits of long-slow distance running, VO2Max, running form, cadence, injury prevention, footwear and on and on and on. I can't say I've been able to put everything I've learned into practice, but a lot of it I have and it has helped me.
I tend to be more on the pessimistic side of things. I have made a lot of improvements in my running since the Fall of 2010. I need to make some new goals for myself and start working towards those goals. When I'm running at my best, I'm following a plan and making every run count towards something.
Rough Draft Goals (for 2013 and 2014):
- Run another half-marathon in the Spring 2013 (~1:30:00)
- Spend some concentrated effort training for shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks.
- Run a 5K with an average pace of 5:59 or lower
- Run another marathon sometime in the next 2 years