That 16:51 5K time above? The only time I see that in a finish chute is when I am volunteering, never as a runner. It would be a banner day if I ran 2 of my 3 miles in 16:51, much less all 3.1 of them.
An experience earlier this year helped me reframe my view of myself as a back of the packer.
Running at the Back of the Pack
I was volunteering at the finish line of a local 5K. One of the runners, Valerie, used to be a fast runner, but in recent years has been slowed down by a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. As an exhausted Valerie joyfully crossed the finish line a full 20 minutes after the next-to-last runner, all of us volunteers celebrated with her and her supportive husband.
Valerie has experienced the “front of the pack” and the “back of the pack” over the course of her running career. I have only ever known the back.
I know I will never run a 5K that will be considered “fast.” I have lost count the number of times I have said, “I am slow but I love it” or “I know you are faster than me, but I am still glad to be racing ‘with’ you.”
If you are a back of the packer and have been saying “but” instead of “and,” it’s time to revise those “BUTS” and replace them with “ANDS.”
Here are some of my “ands”:
I ran a 5K and supported veterans by wearing a Team Red White and Blue shirt.
I ran a 5K and an incarcerated woman thanked me for helping her find freedom in the run.
I ran a 5K and felt strong.
I ran a 5K and saw trees, lakes, the beauty of nature.
I ran a 5K and kept a promise to myself to always try.
I ran a 5K and pushed images of my old self far away.
I ran a 5K and had fun.
I ran a 5K and did my best.
Those are a few “ANDS” that come to mind.
Valerie’s finish that day took longer than her finishes used to take, and that’s okay.
Which “AND” you will say to yourself at your next 5K?