Improvement is relative

A year ago I ran my first half marathon – Bridgwater Half Marathon. I’ve been reflecting a lot on this lately because, over the summer, running hasn’t been going so well for me.

I’ve only been running for just under two years and, for the first eighteen months or so, it was progress all the way. Every time I compared runs on the same routes on Strava I’d be seeing improvement over time. My PBs were gradually, steadily getting better. I’m a slow runner anyway and so there is a lot of room for improvement. I expected the improvement to continue and, for a while, it did.

Then I started to have a few health problems. Nothing major. Niggles. I kept running. I kept my mileage up. Although all my races for the year had been cancelled or postponed, I continued to clock up the same miles I had while marathon training – albeit over shorter but more frequent runs. Of course, with hindsight, I can see that this possibly contributed to my problems. I expected to maintain fitness but gradually, bit by bit, it just melted away. Running the same distance became harder and harder. My runs became shorter and slower. Running shorter distance became harder and harder. I had no energy.

Now, when comparing runs with previous efforts, I would either panic or become despondent. Suddenly I was relieved that the marathon that had been postponed until October, was postponed again until next April.

I had an endoscopy a couple of months ago, which reassured that, although there was a cause for my issues (always nice to know it’s not just in my head!) it’s nothing serious. I think the endoscopy also set me back physically much more than I’d expected. It was not very nice.

But finally, over the past week or two, I’m beginning to see improvement. I’m increasing my miles again. Although my times are slower now than twelve months ago, and considerably slower than they were when I was marathon training – I am getting out there and running. I’m still doing better than I was before I began this journey.

I think what I have learned is that I am who I am today. I can do what I can do today. Comparing what I can do today with what I could do in the past is only useful where it can serve to motivate. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of energy.

Running still brings me joy, and that is why I got into it in the first place.

View from Sunday’s long run at Steart Marshes.

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