Harper Lee is trying to break the world record for the
longest time spent hula-hooping.  Her
current record is 17 minutes.  She
was quite pleased with that and felt that she was probably pretty close to
seeing her name listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.  Then, I looked up the actual
record.  Turns out that the record,
set by an eight-year old, is 10 hours and 47 minutes.  The other record, which relied on five-minute breaks every
hour, lasted 72 hours and some odd minutes.  She found this quite disappointing.  Suddenly, her enthusiasm for
hula-hooping waned.  But then a few
days later, she picked it up again, and while I was not required to time her with
my stopwatch, she hula-hooped for extended periods just for the sheer fun of
it.  It turns out that you don’t
have to break records to have a good time.

However,– I think records have their place.  I, for instance, love to run, but
running, for me, isn’t nearly as much fun without a goal.  Since my ill-fated last October, I have
been, at best, wandering in the wilderness of half-hearted training and
lackluster racing.  I wanted to
run, and at times and on certain days, I could feel that old fire burning
inside me.  I wanted to train
seriously, to, as Michelle says, “get mean” and to try to best myself if
possible.  Unfortunately, the fire
would start to go out after just a few days.  I mean, it was hard to keep it going when my goals weren’t
exactly clear.

Did I want to run trails or road?  Did I want to run long or short?  Did I want to climb mountains or stick with flat and
fast?  Did I want to race at all or
should I just “run for fun”?  All
of these things went through my mind on a regular basis.  At one low point this summer as I
suffered in the sweltering heat and felt myself moving slower and slower
despite what I thought was greater effort, I even considered giving it up
altogether and becoming a swimmer. 
I realize that this would mean overcoming a fear of deep water and actually
learning to swim correctly, but on this particular day, those things sounded
easier than continuing to run. 
Needless to say, that moment passed as quickly as it came, but you can
see where not having a goal or an aim can be detrimental to one’s mental
processes.  I needed to figure out
a plan.

This past Saturday, there was a 5K scheduled to take place
in downtown Mt. Airy.  I had known
about it before but had forgotten the date until I was half-heartedly perusing
a North Carolina racing schedule on Thursday night.  It was at 7:00 in the evening and promised to be big enough
but not too big.  On Friday night,
I decided to run it.

I’ve run a couple of 5K’s in the past year, a tiny one in
the spring that I know was not measured correctly and two with my G-Force
girls, ages 8-12, who trained to complete their first race, but neither of
those were races for me.  I also
completed six 5K’s in a 24-hour period during the Black Mountain Monster in
June, but again, not exactly the same kind of race experience that is a typical
5K.  Basically, I haven’t raced
something like I used to do for nearly two years.  I was afraid I had forgotten how.

And, unfortunately, I did lose my mind for just a little
while.  As I went through the mile
mark and saw 6:58 on my watch, it occurred to me that I had not seen a
6:anything for a long, long time, and I still had 2.1 to go.  It was not my brightest move.  I’d like to say that I just got some
grit and hung on because I used to be able to do that—hang it out there and
then just do it anyway because that’s what you do, but I wasn’t able to
maintain quite as well as I would have liked.  The second mile was 7:10, which is OK—slower but OK.  The last mile, which climbed a very
significant hill (but not that significant) is where I paid the price.  It was a tough finish.

Still, I finished 6th overall and was happy.  I remembered, in addition to why going
out under control is really important, what it is that I really like about
5K’s.  I am not blazing fast, but
the weird thing about me is that I can run pretty close to my top speed for 3
miles.  My mile PR is not that far
off from the pace I ran in my 5K PR—bizarre but true.  It either means I have no fast-twitch fibers or I can just
process oxygen like nobody’s business. 
I’m guessing it’s a little of both.  At any rate, it’s the reason 5K’s are my best distance. 

This is something Rex has known for a long time, but that’s
because he’s Rex and he knows everything about runners and running even when
they don’t know it themselves.  I
had to experiment for a while just to be sure (though in my heart of hearts, I
think I always knew).  It’s just
that after running with Deanne, who can run 19-low off practically nothing, and
Jason and Alison and Crystal who run insane things like 50-mile mountain climbs
or Michelle who not only finished but finished well in her first Ironman, I was
feeling fairly unspectacular.  I
was a good 5K runner but in the “good for a 30-something mom of two” kind of
way.  I was hoping that, perhaps, I
had just been missing my golden ticket so to speak, that if I tried a few new
things, I’d find my specialty, something that stood out as completely my
own.  This is the problem with
hanging out with insanely talented people.  Note to self: Find less accomplished, more boring and
sedentary friends.

I’ve discovered, however, that 5K was my golden ticket; it
is the thing I am best at, and more importantly, I think it’s the thing I most
enjoy.  I still love long trail
runs, and I might even like to run Pilot Mtn. Payback again, but more for the
enjoyment than the time or place. 
Racing, for me, is the most fun when I’m doing it in a 5K road
race.  And I do it pretty
well.  I haven’t broken any amazing
records.  There are those women who
can run sub-18, and I’ll never touch them.  My best ever, 21:32, may not even be something I’ll ever see
on the clock again, but that doesn’t really have to take away from either the
fun or the goal. 

As Harper Lee works on her hula-hoop skills, I am reminded
that you don’t have to break 72 hours or even 11 in order to meet your own
goals and have fun.  It’s just
about having a plan, setting a goal, and  being the best you can be whatever that may be.