I am having a good time with the Island Race Series this year. I have done four and will hopefully do two more. Or that is the plan.
I am racing, in the sense that I have a bib, and I am getting to the start line, but I have this knee thing I have to be careful of these days, and a thing called aging, so I have had to trade speed and volume for strength training in order to stay fit. It is a good trade. I am simply enjoying being around other folks who also like to race. It doesn’t really matter how fast you are, there is something about us all out there trying hard, about putting it all on the line and testing ourselves. I understand the contenders and the winners, and now I am happy in the pack. There is something that binds us all together.
I am a mother of two very active children (now adults). I raced professionally for about 30 years. I don’t think I could have chosen two less physically demanding of careers: motherhood and sport, doubling up on both for 14 of those years.
I have had my share of exhausting days, and sleepless nights, and still got up to train. I have gutted out repeat after repeat of leg burning, lung searing 400’s at the track and ridden so hard up hills for no other reason than to see how fast I could go.
One day, a few summers back, my kids were at summer camp, and I was training at the local track. I was running 1k repeats off a hard bike workout. Half way through the penultimate interval, finding my stride at 700m in, I had one of those moments, where you look at yourself from the outside. As I ran though the fatigue and discomfort, willing myself to quicken my pace, run even a little harder as the discomfort increased, I realized I was completely enjoying myself. There I was running my guts out at the track, when I could have been relaxing with a coffee and a book or even getting my nails done. I wasn’t even training for an Olympics, or a world championships, or anything remotely glorious as all that. I wasn’t suffering for the sake of hitting a pace time or besting an opponent or anything so tangible. I was 45 and out there running fast for the sake of it. I know I am not alone.
I always loved the feeling of working hard. When I am at the track, or in the trails, or on the road working mindfully and gracefully through discomfort and intensity, I am so totally in my element that I am completely happy. It’s what I know and it’s who I am. It’s like being intensely uncomfortable in my comfort zone, if such a thing exists.
When I run fast now, although I am so much slower than I was at 30, I feel just as youthful, empowered, and strong. I now have a freedom and a sense of peace with running that I couldn’t even imagine at 30. The irony is that I couldn’t have the freedom to be what I am now if I hadn’t been there first. This has nothing to do with age though. It has everything to do with accepting what I love and not fighting it.
That’s why I love these races at the Island Series. Here we all are, loving the hard work we put in, loving the training and meeting up every couple of weeks at a new venue, to toe a new start line. I love that these races exist, that people come out to test and challenge themselves, I love the nervous joking on the start line and I love the relaxed laughter after it’s all said and done.
There is no substitute for the experience of training hard and racing, and that’s the truth.
Run For Joy – Lucy Smith