Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Love Letter to Greg Crowther and Great Runs

This post started as a comment on Greg Crowther's blog, but it quickly grew into a post of its own. I've admired the guy for as long as I've read him, so this post is for him.

Since I stumbled onto your blog a few years ago I've been a fan of your writing and your running. I've enjoyed reading about you becoming a father as much as I have enjoyed reading about your best races and your relentless training. With this being said, I was bummed while checking the results for your race this past weekend, and I wish it had gone better.

Between this post and the more recent one, I would have to agree that you're temporarily burnt out. I think you might be wandering in the gray twilight of stage 4.5, which is a damning place to be (check the second link for context). Heading into this summer I felt like I was wedged firmly in this space after two failed attempts at a marathon PR and a lackluster early racing season which culminated in yet again blowing my two chances to PR at 5K. I quit blogging for a few months after realizing I never wanted to write another crappy race report again.

What seemed to help drag me out of the funk was a bit of a change of focus and the schmaltzy self-help mantra, "Never another starting line". Bear with me here.

I know from your posts that winning isn't enough, which is certainly one of the attributes of a champion (I truly feel you are a champion Greg). What might be worth analyzing is why running a PR or a fast time IS good enough. Now I'm going to add my favorite fortune to the schmaltz (yes, I actually pulled this from a fortune cookie and yes I've mentioned it before). "The greatest effort isn't concerned with the results".

My guess is that even while you are a fierce competitor, glancing at the finishing clock while breaking the tape isn't what you remember about the great races. Instead, I bet you remember and savor the feeling of really running well on those days more than the eventual outcome. I mean the feeling of just KILLING it, turning the screw at the critical time and finding more in the legs to give, or fighting back with courage against overwhelming fatigue and holding firm in your resolve. I'm talking about finding and lingering in that elusive place where so much joy and so much pain intertwine, when you are truly giving your best effort naturally without any second guessing.

Certainly the thrill of competition can bring out a great run, and a great time or placing can cement it in time, but as always the real battle is with the man in the mirror. Without a starting line or a finishing clock, where do true competitors find the motivation to continue running? What made us fall in love with it and what keeps us in love even while slipping into the inevitable "winding down" of age that John L. Parker describes so well?

Finding that thing inside us that keeps us searching for that next great run seems to be the important thing. I'm sure it's there for you and for me, maybe at some 5K a few weeks down the road, or perhaps on some familiar trail, far from any starting line. The value of the greatest effort is slowly supplanting the value of the next PR, though both are quite sweet when they arrive.


Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

This post really resonated with me. Beautifully written. I hope it inspires Greg the way that it has inspired me. Well done, Mike!

Greg said...

Thanks for the post Mike. Since my name is also Greg, I'll pretend you wrote that for me.

crowther said...

Mike, I really appreciate this. I'm sort of used to getting sympathy and advice from random bloggers, but I think you understand my situation better than most. And your "My guess is that..." paragraph has a wonderful J.L. Parker-like quality.

Ewen said...

Good post Mike.

It took me quite a while to admit to being in 'stage 5' of PRs. I still enjoy the thrill or racing most, and the satisfaction of a great effort - it feels just the same, even though the times are slower.

Age-group PRs can be fun too - especially 40+ and 50+. I know Mona gets a kick out of his 40+ PRs.

I think you're a 3-4, so keep chasing those outright PRs for as long as you can.