I hear footsteps….

This morning as I was jogging, I went on the path from Conshy to The Home Depot and back. It’s just over a 3 mile round trip. I know it’s my rest week, but I had to keep in practice with a short workout. I figured since I was going to only go for a short while, I’d pick up the pace a bit. My pace has been in the range of 8-9 minute miles recently. Today I wanted to be faster than that.

I walked to the path, started to jog and finally picked up the pace around 1/2 mile in. When I looked at my watch I was doing a 7:15 minute mile. Not too bad. I kept that pace on the slow incline for the first 1/2 of the jog. At the turn around point, even though I knew my speed, I was surprised that it took me just over 10 minutes to get there. I wanted to keep that pace on the way back (at least until the 3 mile mark).

Running through that part of the path is neat, because there is usually no one else there (yea, I said running because I thought my burning speed justified it this time). Today was no exception. When I got to the point where my path rejoined the main path, I looked over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t going to cut anyone off. I didn’t see anyone, so I kept running. A biker passed by coming toward me at that point and I thought I heard him say something after he passed me and acknowledged me, as if he was also acknowledging someone else. I was waiting for a bike to pass from behind at any second, but no bike came……

Then I heard footsteps. I thought I was running pretty well, but apparently someone right behind me was running just as well or better. So I picked up the pace again. I was under 7 minute miles at that point, but the footsteps wouldn’t disappear. So I went a little faster, then faster yet. I looked at my watch, and I was at a 6 minute mile. The footsteps disappeared at a section where the path turns and you have an option to run on the street or the path. I stayed on the path and kept the 6/min mile pace (you know, just in case the ghost runner kept their pace). I dipped just below the 6/ min pace right at the end. I stopped, hit my watch (to stop the timer) and turned around. Not a few steps behind me on the street was a girl half my size and age who stopped and hit her watch too.

On the walk home, I started to think about the footsteps. It really didn’t matter who was there, or even if there was someone there. Though I do like to race, this adventure is not about going faster than anyone else. That being said (written) I know I’ll be upset about whatever time I finish in, thinking I could have done it faster and ranked higher in my age group.  I have to get it through my head that it’s not about going fast at all. I’m not setting any land (or sea) speed records, and I’m not a pro who gets paid for doing it. So what does it matter?  You’re going to see me (or I hope at least a picture of me) enjoying myself with every step. So if I run 6 minute miles that day or walk the whole marathon, I intend to have a huge silly grin on my face.

The footsteps I hear behind me that keep me from stopping are not those of another runner, but those of myself. I know through this process I can always give just a little bit more, then when I’m at a breaking point, give even more. The next day I forget about it anyway, so why not? My inner me is behind me, coaxing me, encouraging me, and making me go just a little bit farther. Those are the loudest footsteps, knowing I want to be better than who I’m used to being, better than I was yesterday.

Back to reality. Um, I mean could have been reality. Here’s how the conversation between me and the blazing fast runner behind me would have went had we had one: Her: “you had a decent pace, how far did you go today?” Me: “I figured I’d have a slow 10 mile run today”. Her: “yea, me too”.

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