It's difficult to wrap words around a year that was, and impossible to project that forward. I'll say that this was a good year, though, and that I expect the next one will be as well.
I won a half marathon, full marathon, and 50 miler. And that, having known myself for my entire life, is just absurd. I won't give you the whole "former unathletic chubby kid" narrative, because you've heard it before. And I guess that's a good thing. We should be glad that people getting in shape borders on cliche, even as quite a few more could stand to do so.
And while those things are true, and I hold in my mind the memory of those races, I can't say I really derive any satisfaction from those moments. I was elated - and exhausted - and the end of each; but ecstasy fades, and you need new highs, higher highs, reaching for a brass ring that is always just outside your grasp.
Or, you know, not.
2013, in terms of running, was about validation, for me. To be blunt: I needed to know that I didn't suck at this, and perhaps more to the point, I needed other people to know it too. I needed the fast guys to talk to me as something of an equal, to hear pre-race whispers that I was the guy to beat.
Is this ego? To some extent, yes. But it's more a lack of one. That is, someone who has confidence in themselves and their abilities doesn't really need much in the way of external validation. They do what they do, and they enjoy it.
I'm getting there. Probably won't ever make it all the way, and to some extent, I'm ok with that. I have my ambitions, and I'd rather they not be extinguished. I want to run a fast spring marathon - which is to say, faster than the guys I run with have. Petty, maybe. But there it is. And I'd like to win some races, run faster times, etc. So, in short, I still want the same things I wanted last year.
But there's a difference, which doesn't really show in terms of my training or racing. It's much less quantifiable than those things, wholly unnoticeable if you're not in my head. And, well, here I am, and welcome in. The difference is the focus, which is more on the process than the outcomes. That is, while I'm running more and harder, and racing better, that's all just sort of incidental to the point, which is that I really enjoy my daily indulgence of miles. It is a lot, usually. Double digits pretty much every day. Oftentimes pretty hard, too. But I haven't dreaded a run in a long time, no matter how gnarly, and I certainly haven't regretted one. Put another way, it's the reaching that's become the goal, not the ring.
The goal then, such as it is, for 2014, is to keep that up. Process-positive focus and consistency is the way forward, not berating one's self over a perceived need to be perpetually better. Which is not to say that "better" won't happen, or that I don't want it to happen.... just that, yeah, I said this was hard to get words around.
There are some conflicting notions at work here, and that's difficult to express in a comfortable way. It's difficult because we want to make sense, to craft cogent arguments. When that fails, the delete key beckons. We don't want to seem so transparently contradictory, even as being so is innately and necessarily human.
So all of that said, 2014, huh? Let's be chill about it.