Recently I had reason to ponder the question "why am I still running races?"
It's a fair question. My PRs are all in the past. I guess my "best days" are, too. At least if I follow conventional wisdom. I'll never again be as fast as I once was. I can't be. My knees won't have it. It's not something that can be fixed with a surgical procedure. It's just how it is now. And for the rest of my life.
And I admit, I do (sometimes) feel that twinge when I'm at races. I used to be fast. I used to be good. And now... well.
But the thing is that was never my motivation for getting out there. I didn't show up to crush the competition, or be faster than anyone else, or "better" than anyone else. It's like the Olympic motto - Swifter, Higher, Stronger. Not swifter, higher, stronger than the other guy. Just swifter, higher, stronger.
I just love to run. I love to push myself. I love to work hard. I love to see what I am capable of doing on any given day.
But mostly, I just love to run.
"Spring training" is just starting up for me. I'm lining up my races for the year, figuring out my training plans. And it makes me giddy. Still. Even though I know there is no hope of a PR at any race I run this year.
After moving though last year very tentatively, very cautiously, and coming out the other end just fine, I'm itching to push again. I'm looking so forward to strength training again. It's been awhile and (somewhat surprising to me since I curse it to the devil when it's happening) I miss it. I'm ready to get out to the track and see what these old legs can do, what these knees are willing to do. I'm ready to hammer on the roads.
I'm ready to feel like myself again. To feel the joy that only running can bring, to fill the void that only running can fill, to feel the achievement of the work, to feel the excitement of race morning, to feel the energy of the course, to feel the happiness of crossing the finish line. And then getting back to work to do it all again. And again. And again. For the joy of it.
Because that's what it's all about. Not the clock, or the time, or the pace, or the place.
It's the joy.