When I started running, I got faster almost every day. Since my beginner’s pace was just a few strides beyond a walk and I was completely out of shape, I had nowhere to go but up–and up I went. The faster I raced, the more I wanted to run. The more I ran, the faster I got. For two years, each race I ran yielded a new PR for me.
And then one day, it didn’t. I had reached my natural limit. Now physically fit and in the best shape of my life, I no longer enjoy the results of a natural performance improvement. Although I knew that day would come, the first race I ran where my pace was slower than the last left me completely deflated.
I’ve gotten over that initial shock, but I still get mad at myself when I don’t beat my standing best. I think I should have worked harder, trained more, shed those extra five pounds, kicked it in at the end. Even though I can’t get better every time anymore–math friends, is this the law of diminishing returns?–I still want to.
I have reached the line between hobbyist and athlete, between talent and skill. I can still get better, but now it won’t be by accident. I have to be deliberate about training. I have to tackle the speed work that I loathe. I have to commit to running on the days I just don’t feel like it. I have to set a goal and work toward it. I have to live the discipline. I can still shave off some seconds or tackle a new distance if I really want to, but now I have to work for it, and it won’t happen at every race.
That’s the dividing line between the amateur and the professional, the B-student and the A-student, the person who sings in the choir and the person who cuts records. You have to be willing to keep going when your talent runs out.
Unfortunately, we are also getting closer to the point where age will become a factor in performance speed. (That’s the 50’s, correct?)