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005. on "racing"
The pressure is weighin' on me
Career is going great, but now the rest of me's fading slowly
My soulmate is somewhere out in the world just waiting on me
My chef got the recipe for disaster baking slowly
My heart feel vacant and lonely, but still
I'm makin' the most of this shit and more…
And if the last negotiation made you pay me twenty-five
Well, this is the perfect time to give me twenty-five more
—Drake, “Champagne Poetry”
It’s December 27th and I’m about halfway through my 2021 audit—measuring what I achieved this year against the personal, professional, physical, and mental/emotional goals I set for myself in December 2020. I’m also putting together my 2022 goals doc which has been harder than most years.
Last week, I checked off one of my biggest goals for 2021. I ran a half marathon in under 90 minutes. I didn’t sign up for a half marathon or anything; I just went out to Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge and started running alongside the San Francisco Bay. No bib, no cheering, no medal at the end, and only a few of my closest friends knew I was running it.
Intentionally, I didn’t train for it at all—I wanted it to be completely mental. A test. A race against no one else but the clock. The way I planned my race, I wanted to feel my legs get heavy as shit and then force myself to crank out a few sub 6’40 miles at the very end. “Where the mind goes the body will follow.” It didn’t quite work out that way.
Thankfully, I finished in under 90 minutes (barely). After 13.1 miles, I came in at 1 hour, 29 minutes, and 48 seconds. My average pace was 6’51.” I clocked a few fast miles earlier in the run, feeling good and thinking I could give myself breathing room and STILL get faster as I got closer to 13.1. Nope.
Over my last 3 full miles I got slower—6’42 → 6’44 → 6’49—although I felt like I was running my ass off. Hearing the Nike Run Club App announce my splits was frustrating. Somewhat prepared for this moment, I played all the music that normally kicks me into high gear when I’m tired—no chorus Drake songs, Lil Baby, Blueprint or Black Album Hov. Nothing worked and I realized I had fully hit a wall. The last few miles is where it's most challenging, which should’ve made it the most fun but I legitimately could not will myself to go any faster. I had reached my absolute limit. It was a horrible, frustrating feeling so when I saw my time after 13.1 miles, I was honestly just relieved I didn’t fail.
As horrible and unusual as that feeling was, it’s one that I’ve gotten relatively accustomed to the past few months. Q4 has been a mfer and life has been sending me strong signals to slow the hell down. Just a week before my half marathon, I was down bad with the flu. Two weeks before that, I finally realized how trash my mental health had gotten.
As many of us do at the end of each year, I’ve been reflecting a ton the last few weeks. Through conversations with friends and family, reading through my journal entries, and looking back on personal and professional achievements, I realized I’ve spent a lot of 2021 racing.
In Q4 especially, I felt like I was running my ass off in all aspects of life only to hit a wall and realize I wasn’t actually running that fast and I wasn’t having fun.
I’m a hooper at heart. I only got into running because I needed a new form of cardio when covid hit and running fast is fun to me. I love speed because speed makes me feel like I’m racing and racing is competition and there’s nothing I love more than competing. Ask anyone that runs on the West Side Highway in New York or through the Marina in SF: I run 18 minute 5K’s and will gladly pull a hamstring before I let a runner pass me.
BUT this afternoon I went for a 5 mile run and it was one probably one of the slowest runs I’ve been on since I started running.I know for a fact that at 8’23” my first mile was the slowest mile I’ve ever logged on my Nike Run Club profile. It took a lot of discipline to run that slow.
The crazy thing is it was one of the most fun runs I’d had in a long time. One mile into my slow run, my body realized I wasn’t racing and relaxed. My mind calmed down, muscles loosened up, and then the craziest shit happened: I caught a rhythm. Like I really caught a RHYTHM. Not a runner’s high, a RHYTHM. You know that feeling where you get into a rare groove doing something you love and everything just starts falling into place?
6PM in New York came on and I felt like I was flooooating. By mile 5 I was literally rapping whole Jay-Z songs while running 7’10 and it was effortless. No heavy breathing, no tiredness, nothing. Pure fun—I’d almost forgotten the feeling. It was so much damn fun I instantly realized that all the pressure I’d been putting on myself to become a better, faster runner had completely snatched the fun out of running for me. I could say the same about nearly every other aspect of my life. Too much racing.
There’s not really a moral to this post so don’t go looking for a concrete lesson in it. Only sharing this to let y’all know I rediscovered how to have fun with my running, and I’m taking the rest of 2021 to rediscover how to do the same with building, working, writing, and everything else. Then I’m right back to racing.