One of the guys in my running group, Richard, accuses me of “sandbagging it.” Yesterday we were running roughly .3 mile intervals with a partner. While I was waiting for my partner, Richard zoomed by, looked at me, and said, “You’re not sandbagging it, are you Jennifer?”
The thing is, he’s totally right. I am sandbagging it and I know it. I know I can be a much better runner than I am, but here’s the thing – running is maybe 20 percent physical and 80 percent mental. Your body can do some extraordinary things, but the mind will hold it back. Somewhere between age 19, when I was in my peak running shape (I was running 7 to 8 minute miles without any problem) and now, I’ve grown mentally adverse to running fast for longer distances. I have the endurance to run forever, but speed? That’s a totally different story.
I answered, “No, I’m not,” which wasn’t a total lie – I wasn’t running slowly –but I still felt like I had a lot left in me. I was running the intervals in roughly 2:03 – 2:06 (at my slowest), so I was averaging a 7 – 7.5 minute per mile pace. But I still should have been faster.
On my second-to-last lap, an older guy (I will call him “Moe”) sidled up next to me and said, “So, what lap are you on? Have you lapped me yet?” Moe usually makes comments to me in this vein, meaning that he uses me to compete against. Usually, Moe will be faster than me at the beginning of a run. But once I warm up, I can usually get ahead of him for good.
May I rant for a moment? I freaking hate it when people aged 60+ want to use me as competition. It’s great that you’re running, and I generally don’t use age to gauge someone’s speed (I can think of many people aged 50+, including Richard, who can run laps around me, and I have no problem with that at all.) I’ve learned a long time ago that you can’t use looks, age, gender, or race to judge someone’s running ability.
But still, it’s really annoying. And it’s not the first time that it’s happened. Older guys seem to like using me as their pacer. Even yesterday at the end of a run, one of them pointed to me and said, “BACK THEN, I COULDN’T KEEP UP WITH YOU OR ANYONE IN THE GROUP.” I guess it’s because I’m still fast enough for them to aspire to, but slow enough to where their dreams of running faster are not out of reach. Or maybe they just like staring at my ass the whole time. I don’t know. Whatever the reason is, I do not enjoy this at all. Unless I’m running with a friend or family member, I want to be left alone when running, not have someone breathing down my neck or reminding me how slow I actually am. It’s perfectly normal and encouraged to use someone to run against to get you running faster. I know I do for sure. My rule of thumb? Don’t be so damn obvious about it. I keep it to myself and try not to be annoying about it.
We both sidled up to the starting line as he continued rambling on about what lap we were on. “I’m not paying attention,” I said dismissively, which I hoped would make him stop talking about it. Both my partner and his finished their laps at the same time, which meant that Moe and I both had to start running together. Great.
I started off at a pace that I felt comfortable with, but Moe was right next to me, keeping up with every step. I let this continue for approximately five seconds before thinking, “Fuck this, I’m not going to be racing him this whole lap,” and gave a sharp kick downhill. I knew there wouldn’t be any way he would be able to keep up with my burst of speed. Now I just had to maintain the pace. Halfway through the lap, I broke one of my rules and looked behind me (I usually don’t like looking behind me because then it lets the competition know they’re worrying you.) He was substantially behind me. Good. I sprinted to the top at the finish line and looked at my watch.
1:52. An entire 10 seconds faster than my previous fastest lap. Richard was right. I was sandbagging it.
After the lap, I went to the starting line and saw that Moe was not lining up anymore. I relaxed a little. I did not want to continually compete against him and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to have that strong of a kick the second time around.
At the end of the workout, Moe came up to me. “I figured I’d had to stop since you beat me pretty badly that last lap,” he said. I replied, “Everyone did a great job.” Be a good sport, I admonished myself. “You did a great job,” I said.
I hope my victory means he won’t try to race me next week on the hills. But he probably will. I know I beat him last time we did hill work. We’ll see how next week goes. I will try hard not to sandbag it.