Notes from the Back of the Pack
This past weekend, I ran a 5k with my favorite running partner, who is currently thirty-four weeks pregnant. Having decided ahead of time to let her race-day condition dictate the pace, we planned a quick 5-minute warm-up walk and then some tight little run/walk intervals for the duration of the race. We started at the very back of the pack so that we weren't immediately trampled.
As a solid middle-of-the-pack runner, I'm accustomed to a race start quickly giving way to the rhythm of slapping steps and measured breathing. At the back of the pack, however, we joined a cheery throng of good-hearted jokesters, who commenced the race calling encouragement to one another and exchanging friendly insults. Jostling and shuffling their way across the start line, they fell into no recognizable pattern or rhythm.
These people knew themselves. They were under no illusions about what we were all doing at the back. These were the fast walkers, fast talkers, and don't-care-about-the-clock-ers.
And let me tell you, we loved it back there.
We quickly learned the advantages of running from the back of the pack:
- Less overt competition! No one at the back is in it to win it.
- Leisurely pace! You don't feel pressure to stay out of anyone's way.
- Entertainment! Surrounding runners actually have wind to chat -- and so do you.
- Free ego boost! If you bump into people you know, it's generally because you're passing them.
Not that it's a competition. That's what this race reminded me.
While I've never been fiercely competitive with others, I sometimes feel that I'm engaged in one long war against myself. Running has been no exception, and since I picked up the habit a few years ago, I've been constantly pushing for longer runs at higher speeds. It's never just about the running for me. There's always another goal.
This race reminded me, however, that not every event needs to trigger an internal battle.
Sometimes it's okay to lean back and enjoy the run.
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