Cherry Blossom Ten Miler – or how I surprised myself with a better than expected PR

I am a competitive person. This is both my saving grace, and my downfall as a runner.

It’s a saving grace because it fuels me to sign up for races and push through tough workouts. And it’s my downfall because too often I compare my time to others who are faster and more experienced. I don’t think I’m alone in this. (And let’s just say for my non-running brethren out there, this exists in all different forms – we compare ourselves to better bakers, better writers, better sewers, better looking people, etc)

It’s not healthy. And I’d like to start a campaign, for me and for all of you.

Let’s stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. It’s not helping us. I know it will probablytake some time and effort to break these bad habits, but let’s try? Here’s the deal I made with myself – whenever I start to compare my time or my (insert skill here) to anyone else I’ll stop and compare it to me a year or two ago.

I’ve been testing this strategy out this year with my running. As some of you know, last year when I ran my second marathon I was very disappointed. I felt like I was a faster runner than I was the year before, but I didn’t see any real-time improvement. Any runner will tell you that after running through four months of hot weather, spending weekends out on the trail, and calling it early on Friday nights this is a disappointment.

So this year I have been focusing on improving my attitude, finding “zen” moments in running and really giving my workouts focus and purpose. I try to set intentions with each workout, and really give them my all instead of looking at them as another thing on my to-do list. I think this has helped me stay on track with more of my workouts this year.

This past Sunday was the first true test of my attitude adjustment. The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler is one of my favorite races. It was the first 10 miler I completed 2 years ago when I started running for real. That year I surprised myself by running it in 1:32:56.  I ran it again last year, but was plagued by a nagging leg injury so my finish time was 1:30:49, an improvement but I felt like collapsing afterwards because I didn’t have much training under my belt.

This year I arrived at the starting line healthy and with a better attitude.

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Start & Finish

I arrived by 6:45, quickly checked my jacket and guzzled  water. I had my standard bagel with butter for a pre-race meal. I visited the port-o-potty. I found my way into the blue corral. I hit start on my watch when it was my time to go.

I was expecting to keep a pace somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45 per mile. The first mile, because it takes awhile for the field to un-stick itself, is always a little slow. My first was around 8:24. The next few miles I was averaging 8:15 or so per mile, and I made a deal with myself: keep up this pace and you’ll be so proud of yourself. There were times (running into a headwind coming off the Potomac River) that I didn’t know if I could keep that pace. I just pushed those thoughts out of my head. I was racing 2012 me, and she was behind me.

Before I knew it I was at the 9 mile mark and that is the best stretch of this race. Everyone is out, they are loud and you’re running toward the finish line. The crowd really got me going. I started to tear up (I’m a very emotional runner). I wanted to finish strong, and I did.

Objects in Garmin GPS watch are faster than they appear

Turns out my watch was a little off. I finished in 1:22:15 a PR – taking 8:34 off my PR from last year. I was so surprised to break 1:25. Once I crossed the finish line I saw my mom and I was even happier. It was so great to share this experience of finishing with someone.

My parents brought me flowers from their garden to congratulate me and we went out for breakfast sandwiches to celebrate.

My “winner’s” bouquet

There were plenty of people who ran faster than me. 20% of the field finished in front of me. I would love to run faster – but I did run faster than I ran this race last year. I ran the fastest 10 miles that I’ve ever run. And I am proud of that. So on Sunday, after I cleaned up and tried to take a nap, I sat on my couch and made a new intention – I told myself, “This time is mine, for now, because next year I want to beat myself again.”

How do you measure your success? How do you celebrate your many accomplishments?