Yesterday’s workout was the dreaded hill workout. I am notorious in my group for hating the hills. Even when I used to show up regularly, I would find an excuse not to show up on hill days. The route is not on an actual hill – instead, it’s a 3/4-mile interval that has you running up a steep, windy bike ramp at the end. It always kicks my ass.
At the height of my marathon training, I could run five laps – not with ease, but with strength. When I was not in marathon running shape, I would stop at four.
I started my first lap by trying to keep a pace slower than Rowena’s, who is well-known in our group for loving hills. She took the first lap slowly, and since I know what a fast runner she is, I decided that I could too. I’ve been running since I was a little girl, and I STILL haven’t figured out how to start my first laps slowly. Especially with hills – on the first lap, I feel strong, like THE HILLS ARE ALIVE AND SO AM I!!!!!! And then by the end of the third lap, I basically want to kill myself.
But not today – I was determined not to let the hills get the best of me. I finished the first lap feeling well. I watched everyone guzzle their water and I felt regretful that I did not bring any, especially as the humidity weighed on all of us.
It was the second lap that made me a little crazy.
Rowena ran far ahead of us, so I kept pace behind two women. These women are usually much faster than me in the other workouts, but I noticed my pace was close to theirs now. And I thought – I want to run faster than them.
I hate this about myself. I can get so competitive when I run with other people. It’s totally hypocritical because I hate it when people do it to me – I hate it when people use me as their pace keeper, because then it’s pressure on me to A. keep the same pace and B. make sure you don’t pass me up. But I can’t help it. I’ll get into imaginary competitions with people.
By the third lap, I was determined to run faster than the pair of women. I started my next lap a little earlier than they did and succeeded with keeping ahead. I felt triumph. I wasn’t the fastest woman there but I was the second-fastest – did that count for anything? No, because the other women were smarter than I was and were actually pacing themselves and drinking water.
But no, not me. I had to win my imaginary competition.
I managed to keep ahead of the pair, even though, by the fourth lap, I was starting to feel exhausted. Every inch of my body was covered in sweat and I needed water. I felt almost a little nauseous running up the steep embankment, which doesn’t happen to me very often.
Rowena was done after four laps and another woman was too. I should have stopped at four, but by this time, my brain was like, “LET’S DO FIVE, FOR OLD TIME’S SAKE.” As if I am in the shape I was once.
So I did. And I realized that, on the way back, the pair of women had not elected to run another lap.
I thought, I WON. But it was a hollow victory. I was the only one running now. The others had either been faster than I was or had been smart enough not to run another lap.
I trudged up that last hill, catching my breath as I stopped. Everyone walked ahead of me, well-hydrated and rested. They had not pushed themselves for nothing. They had not gotten into imaginary competitions with anyone else.
What did I have to prove? This pair of women are much faster runners than I am, normally. I should have just run at my own pace.
But as I walked behind everyone else, I couldn’t help feeling a little pride – I had the strength to complete five, for old time’s sake, after all.