For 60 races now, I have begun my run by listening to Garth Brook's "Standing Outside The Fire". The lyric "life is not tried, it is merely survived, if you're standing outside the fire" has been my motto, my creed, my spur. But what happens, Garth, when the fire turns to ashes?
Ah, the Queens Half: vaunted favorite of several runners I know and, until now, a complete mystery to me. Second to last in the Grand Prix line up, I have never had the chance to run it before; it was about time.
Some course, huh? I'm not going to editorialize, like I did with the Bronx course, but I think everyone agrees this is a perversely convoluted route.
I am also not posting a race report. I wrote one, but am keeping it private, as a draft. To me, it is simply a laundry list of my failures as an athlete and as a man. You can see my Runkeeper times if you click the link in the map above and you can see my NYRR official results here. [I do want to note the extraordinary measures NYRR afforded us back-of-the-packers this time around. I have zero complaints about NYRR's performance and give them props for managing such runners with grace and aplomb. The value and committment of the NYRR staff and volunteers has never been more apparent.]
Now, early in the race, while I was pondering actually dropping out, I came to a decision - and a realization. The Queens Half is not only the next-to-last Grand Prix race, but it is MY next-to-last race. I came to this one intending to use it as a litmus test to see whether I should continue training for the NYC Marathon. Some time in the first quarter of the race, I decided I will defer my entry; and further events and re-examination of that decision during the race and after have only assured me I'm right in making that choice.
I further realized that I am no longer interested in racing at all. There are many reasons for this, beginning with a distinct lack of desire. "But you've got be tough when consumed with desire, 'cause it's not enough just to stand outside the fire," Garth wrote. But I am no longer consumed by desire - or even tickled by it. This was race number 60. I have been racing for nearly five years without a real time-out from it and I may just be burnt out.
More immediately, I am tired of spending my few "me" hours in extended training for races that I'm doing worse and worse in. I'm tired of losing entire days to what is supposed to be just a couple of hours of running, but leave me wasted and unable to be productive. I am tired of being tired for the next several days. I am tired of the injuries that inevitably come with mounting miles. I am tired of paying race fees only to find that all the goddamn bagels are gone by the time I cross the finish line. I am tired of doing these monumental things without reward or return on my investment.
My very reasons for running have shifted. I have never run to maintain my CF, no matter how much I note the positive effects here. I really can't stand the activity. But I do have a competitive streak and knowing my sister is out there running despite her schedule and family demands helps keep me going. I have seen very good evidence that running keeps my diabetes in check, even more than it keeps my CF in check. And I have come to realize that when people say I'm inspiring, they're not just blowing smoke up my ass - I now have several acquaintances who have taken up running in the last couple of years, or who have decided to go from recreational jogging to tackling a serious distance race at least once. And I believe that I was one of the examples that spurred them to their decisions. I love being that.
I am NOT giving up running! All winter my goal was to strengthen my base - get steadier, increase the number of days per week that I run, but keep the mileage lower. And this is my renewed goal! My diabetes, my gout, my CF, my osteopoenia all benefit from a moderate, consistent running plan. So that, I think, wants to be my real focus for at least the next year. No more than four miles per day and no longer than my 6.7 mile loop on a weekend. I want to focus - really focus - on improving my endurance, my speed, and my flexibility. I want to run injury- and pain-free. And I want to get back to reading my running friends' blogs - something I haven't been doing because of lack of time, and suspicions (usually confirmed) that they ran a particular race better than I. Petty, I know; but I'm human.
I'm not ruling out races completely. There are fun runs that support great causes, and I'll most certainly be at next year's BEF-sponsored race, provided that comes to pass. These are things I'll decide on a case-by-case basis and probably at the last minute. I'm also not avoiding attending the races. I want to do more race photography and I want to volunteer more.
So, that's it. My mood as I slogged through Queens was somewhat buoyed by this decision and I think I'm making the right one. I will take at least the next year off from racing and hopefully rekindle the fire.