There is much to be said for having an electronic record of my times courtesy of the timing companies which time, record and post online results for road races. Especially since I’m not very good at my own record keeping, and small details like seconds (and sometimes minutes) don’t always stay in my head. I can look up my times over different distances, check my past results from specific races, analyze my patterns of ups and downs over the years, and find my personal best times all with a few simple clicks. Almost all races these days are electronically timed and those times will sit beside my name on a website forever (or at least probably for my lifetime – scary thought). This is a great service for personal reference, but there is no denying that there is a different level of ego involved knowing my times will go down in history, available to anyone who casually looks up my name.
There are the times I don’t want, but can’t erase. There they are shining brightly beside my name.
For example: A few weeks ago, I was fighting a bug and feeling pretty run down. I had signed up for a half marathon a few weeks earlier, and had made plans to go with friends. My optimistic (but not always realistic) brain told me that I should still run it because you just never know. I think I had just read a story about an Olympian who had raced a great race while suffering from the flu, so I obviously thought I could too. Off I went, and about 7 or 8K into the race I realized I wouldn’t be racing it for a great time. By 10K I figured I’d just run it in. By 15K I was walking and if there had been a sweeper bus I would have gotten in. It was not pretty but I had only one way to end my misery and get home, so I continued jogging and walking to get there. Then, my dilemma: Should I cross the finish line and officially record a time 10 minutes slower than I felt I was capable of? That would be the time everyone would see beside my name. Forever. It turned out it was too awkward not to cross the line once I’d gotten there, so I sucked it up, crossed the line, smiled, accepted my medal, thanked the volunteers, and officially stamped that time beside my name in history.
Then there are the times which I want to be there, but aren’t.
An example: This past weekend I ran a race to try to reclaim a time which I’d “given” to a friend three years ago. She had registered for a race and gotten injured right before the event. She very generously asked if I wanted her bib. I didn’t think I was that fit and hadn’t committed to racing, but decided I could use a good low-pressure training run and I didn’t want her bib to go to waste. It turns out I was somewhat fit, and surprised myself with a time I was pleased with. But it wasn’t my time – it was her bib so the time was recorded beside her name. Fair enough. It’s not that I didn’t want her to have it, but I wanted it too! So this year I ran the race with the sole goal of getting that time under my name. Unfortunately my ego wasn’t quite powerful enough to propel me up that last hill fast enough, and I fell 17 seconds short. I’ll have to go for it again next year.
I’m not actually upset about either of these scenarios. I’d committed to them and knew the potential fall-outs. Just a couple of stories to remind you that before you step on any start line you have to have decided whether your result will stand beside your name, or whether you’ll race in anonymity. You can do either, but there’s no changing your mark once you’ve started.