PR stands for personal record, in case you didn't know. And I got my 5K PR in a race three years ago.
It was a Friday night race in September in a small suburb of St Paul. The race was well established and actually had some decent competition. At this point I had been running for three years and had been through a lot of peaks and valleys in the learning cycle, but one of the main things that had emerged for me is that I had learned what it meant to race a race and not just run a race. Given that, the feeling at the start line changes because you know what you're in for if you're going to race. And that Friday night I was there to race.
It was a hot and humid late summer evening. I had worked all day and I changed at work and went straight to the start line. This is gonna hurt I said to myself as we lined up. Man it's such a feeling of dread! And so weird, given it is entirely voluntary. When I train with my coach he will say things like "You can do anything for 30 seconds!" to keep the push going in whatever exercise I'm doing, and so I stood on that line and told myself you can do anything for 30 minutes, a time I was hoping to break that night.
And break it I did! By 30 seconds. I came across the line in 29:30, exactly 13 minutes faster than my first 5K three years prior. Every single step of that race hurt, as predicted. There was no letting up on the throttle, and my mantra was you can do anything for 30 minutes, then you can do anything for 20 minutes, and then you only have 10 more minutes! Of course it hurts like hell physically, but it's dialing in to that frequency mentally and staying there that is the real test of pushing.
I stayed in that push all the way across the finish line. Then I puked and then I got my medal for second place in my age group. I don't recall how many women were in my age group. I do recall that I got my ass handed to me by a 65 year old woman who ran 3 minutes faster, but truly none of that matters. That was my highest high in a race to date (not counting the ultras--that's a whole different beast). And it's because I was willing to go into that place of extreme discomfort and stay there to get the job done. Believe me, I was glad when it was over! I don't want to live there, but I want to know how to go there because it not only moves the needle in performance, it moves the needle in life.
Which brings me to this morning: I am about to leave for a training session with my coach and we are going to do a run session--a move the needle run session. Over the past two years I have not exercised my push muscle to the same degree as I was before that PR, and it has shown up in my running and in my life. Now instead of mere dread at the idea of pushing, I'm paralyzed. And that shows up everywhere, too. I gained weight during Covid that I'm addressing and I'm dealing with a nagging injury, but that isn't what pushing is about, when it comes down to it. It starts with a determination in your mind, a belief in your heart, and a desire in your gut. What your body is able to do with that at any given moment is really irrelevant, at least it is to me. Thinking about this morning's pending workout is so scary! But I want my push back, and I can show up with my mind and my heart and my gut today, regardless of what my body can do today, and come out with a win on the other side.