As runners, we tend to focus on our paces during races and whether they are where they should be. We all have goals and we all have plans for our races and our training runs, some more complex and detailed than others. Pace means something different to every person: To one it can mean speed, to another it can be a goal, and it can also be a state of mind. Whether running on road or on trail, we always have an idea of what pace we should or could be doing.
I was struggling during a race several years ago and as I was desperately gasping for air in the thick Texas humidity, a seasoned runner passed me and said “Just remember, dear: Forward is a pace.” It took a few moments for this to settle in – such a simple piece of advice. I gathered myself and kept moving. My breathing slowed down and my heart rate dropped and I was able to get moving again and finish the race. Was I “happy” with my time? Not exactly, but I was happy that I learned something and finished the race.
FORWARD IS A PACE
That phrase kept repeating itself in my ear, every repetition getting louder as I watched this mysterious Master of Zen trot away down the trail. Her voice echoed constantly and her gait seemed so fluid over the slippery rocks. It was obvious that her trail tenure had taught her ways that I had yet to learn. She wasn’t moving at a “podium” pace but her relentless forward progress in the humidity was beyond impressive to me. Her posture conveyed confidence that said “I don’t care if I win or lose, I just want to RUN.” It dawned on me: We aren’t always aiming for a PR, we aren’t always meant to be at our best, and that’s okay. It’s okay to just enjoy the race. It’s okay to just be happy to cross that finish line. A finish is still a finish, and even those medals that weren’t earned with negative splits still hang in our homes proudly. When I look at my medals and buckles, I don’t remember my finish times: I remember the struggle. I remember the fight to earn it.
Is pace important? Of course it is, but it’s also important to remember that finishing something you started is just as meaningful. I will always struggle during ultras because they’re ultras, but I won’t quit because my pace is lacking or my breathing is pathetic or everything is going wrong. I won’t quit – I will keep moving forward. We can’t improve ourselves if we accept failure when failing is so easy.
During these huge races, it is so easy to give up when things start to fall apart. If you just keep moving forward, you will find another gear, you will find a new person to small talk with, and you will find yourself in those trails. We have to remember why we started this in the first place, it wasn’t to give up, it was to keep moving forward. Pace is important but so is finishing the race you trained for, you planned for, you paid for, and you wanted.
Time is always moving forward, and we can’t stop it or fight it or change it. As mothers, we find this innate urge to “capture the moments” with our children. As runners, we try to “beat yesterday” with our paces and our splits. With time constantly ticking, we feel this sense of urgency to always remember the things we could forget and to improve ourselves. Sometimes we get so caught up in our expectations that we forget that progress isn’t always perfect and baby steps can still get us to that finish line. We have all heard that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “you have to crawl before you can walk,” but it doesn’t always sink in. When I’m running and I begin to struggle I just remember that “Forward is a pace.” When work isn’t going the way I want it to and life is falling apart, remembering that “tomorrow is another day,” doesn’t hold the same weight with me. It must be the running and how important my paces are that this little phrase can center me so quickly.
The list of responsibilities for a woman is endless, and we have to remember that with all of these things we have piled on our proverbial plates, that runs suck some days, and life isn’t fair, and work is tough, but forward is a pace. We have to dig deep to find what moves us, and when the dust settles and the kids go to bed and we are still standing – that we made it to the finish line no matter what the pace was. When someone asks me what I plan to finish the race in, I normally have a good idea and several “goal times” but to be brutally honest: Forward IS MY PACE.