A recent comment on my McMillan post got me thinking about challenging myself. The last time I ran (as opposed to "finished") a marathon, I trained hard. I incorporated speedwork and multiple 20m runs and tempo runs. I finished strong, I finished at my (modest) goal, and I felt good about it.
But, for most of my running career past and present, I've used excuses for not pushing myself very hard. Using Hal Higdon's novice training programs instead of intermediate. Holding back during races. Taking days off of running for no good reason, other than vague "I'm tired" feelings (I stand behind skipping my run last Friday: Snowicane 2 made even walking on my street treacherous).
What would happen if I really pushed myself? Is this something I want to do?
Having just said that, I'm now going to revert back to the excuses: I need to lose some weight before I can be a better runner. I have too much going on at work/school to dedicate myself to running as more than a pastime. I don't want to risk injury, and I've gotten stress fractures each time I've pushed myself. These things are all true, but I do see a time (this fall?) when there shouldn't be as many obstacles in front of me.
Still... What would happen if I did dedicate myself? What could I achieve? Am I afraid of failure? Do I lack the willpower? Is it okay to just keep on as a mediocre runner, or should I aspire higher?
On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"