When I was in college we had to run the Cooper in preseason. We did 7.5 laps in 12 minutes. Just shy of 6 minute miles. For a non-track athlete it was a fast pace.
As a young adult I loved running a 5k. The running itself felt good as exercise. I focused on going my very fastest at each juncture of the run. Pushing yourself is always valuable.
I also liked to start in the middle and pick out people ahead of me to pass. Each time I passed someone it was satisfying. Accelerating to get ahead of a pack or through a tight group of people would be like adding a miniFartlek to my run.
At the end I would be very happy to have run, to have competed, to be in the middle of a crowd of other satisfied runners.
In my early thirties I decided to get very fit. I chose to do this through running. I was not yet lifting much, but I was running twice a day. I got thinner, lighter and faster. I was running close to my college times again on a 3 mile run. Not quite Cooper pace, but a good 7 minute mile every time.
I signed up for a 5k. Excited to compete.
On the morning of I got there early. I started toward the front of the pack. With the real runners. People who train for races.
People who don’t consider a 6:30 mile fast.
As the 5k wore on I ran hard. I got passed time and again by runners. By people with strollers. By people like me who do not look like runners. Each time I was passed I felt a little more discouraged.
When the race ended. Many had passed me. I did not feel near the front, yet I had run a fast pace, my fastest time ever. I felt a bit defeated.