This year it'll be a full decade since I started running 5Ks with friends for fun, then started wondering 'what can I do if I actually train properly?' That led me to the question 'what does it mean to train properly?' which then led me down a rabbit hole of online running information and blogs aka reading about other runners' personal experiences, which led me right here.
Anyway, some thoughts on a decade of running seriously.
What does it mean to run 'seriously'? It means a dedication to better, whatever that means to you - getting faster, going longer, training smarter, sticking with hard things. speed has nothing to do with dedication, and competitive is not necessarily the same as fast.
There are some races whose memory I cherish. My very first 10K was actually way, way back in 2002 (!) - it was the Army Half Marathon & 10K. I remember going with my mom, then immediately losing her in the crowd and waiting around at our pre-determined meetup spot for her to finish. That may be the one and only race I ever got my mom to do with me. And she runs 3 miles every morning... The Tokyo Marathon was another lifetime highlight. So was the year I ran the Great Eastern 5k while 13 weeks pregnant, just soaking up the atmosphere and watching every woman runner I knew do one of the races.
There are some races I'd like to erase from my brain. 2010 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon: stomach trouble way too early (at the halfway mark), couldn't keep my gels down, lots of walking. Good fun.
Friends, if you're used to 500-person road races in small towns in the US, road races in Singapore are a zoo. Most Singapore runners also don't do it with anything approaching the, um, level of ambition that I've seen in US races and blogs. Consequently, races in Singapore are very good for the ego. I'll be the first to admit that was instrumental to my sticking with running. In 2009 I finished near the 'front of the pack' with a sub-1h 10K and started thinking: 'Hm, that was a nice feeling. I wonder how well I could do if I actually trained?'
Ten years and eight marathons later, the rest is history! I still hold the family marathon record, as husband has never done a standalone (he did a 50K as his first race of any distance longer than a half marathon - go figure).
But I still don't know how to pace a race. I mean, I know, in theory. I have never executed what I consider good pacing, in practice. Probably because I don't get enough practice.
Unfortunately, despite how popular running is (or maybe because of it?), race organisation in Singapore leaves a great deal to be desired. Too many races are about the shirts, the medals, the swag - everything but a) is the distance correct? b) was the route map right? c) did it start on time? All of the serious runners I know are quite peeved about this. They deserve better. Not everyone wants or can afford to travel overseas for a well-organised marathon every year. Shoutouts to a few races that are really well-organised and that I love: the Great Eastern Women's Run series, the Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. And the running community, where you can always find pockets of people who are generous with their time and their energy and always willing to give back.
I've come to the conclusion that there aren't any blogs by runners who are in dedicated training, who have small children and also work full-time. That's because it's apparently impossible to do all four of those things (blog about training for something while working and raising children who are very young). It's just impossible and usually the blogging is the first thing to go...sorry! I have tremendous flexibility in *where* and *when* I work, but even so, the baby year is f'in hard. Which brings us to:
The blogging 'market'. Perhaps this is the twilight of blogging? Perhaps market consolidation means there are a few big blogs making a ton of money off ads and affiliate links and the rest are just a fun habit/ labour of love? There are a lot of people out there who used to write running blogs that I miss. (Hi, Health on the Run! Jogging Jeano, where'd you go?)
There are some blogs that are still around and update at least semi-regularly: SF Road Warrior, Arkansas Running Mom, How I Complicated My Life Today, A Fast Paced Life, A Healthier Moo, I'm probably missing a few others.
For some reason, all of the action seems to have moved to Instagram. Microblogging is technically easier - 1 photo, a few lines...case in point, I'm writing this on my phone and it's freaking hard to add links vs just tagging people on Instagram - but then also: people carefully curate edit filter their pictures, put together a whole essay and paste it in, etc. etc. Or use it to record their training ('today I ran FIVE miles at xx pace!'). There are some runners who are only on Instagram whom I love (hi coach Nicole!), and I appreciate the convenience of conversation/ commenting/ messaging on the platform, but I also enjoy a good hefty blog-length race report. I like reading about the process of training, not just the actual running but also what goes on in your head.
But whether online or in real life, fellow runners will always commiserate with you about plantar fasciitis, celebrate a PR with you, and talk about poop.