They Can't All Be Keepers

Raise your hand if you saw this coming.

I know, I know. Did I really think I was going to race a fast half marathon on a notoriously hilly course two weeks after racing a full marathon that reduced my poor little body to shreds?

Well, I mean, I didn’t necessarily think it would happen. But I didn’t necessarily think it wouldn’t happen, either. (“So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance…”)

Runners. We’re so optimistic. It’s adorable.

On Sunday morning, I lined up with my RunnaBabez teammates—Lisa, Amanda, and Cheryl—ready to race the Clayton Half Marathon. And by “ready” I mean I had a bib number and my shoelaces were tied and that pretty much sums up my readiness. (Actually, I did foam roll on the floor of the basketball court after picking up my race packet. And I used the bathroom twice.)

At first, my legs felt heavy; but as the race went on, they became remarkably heavier. I managed to hold pace for not a very long time, and by mile six I was discoursing with myself on the topic of throwing in the proverbial towel and jogging the rest of the way. 

Ugh. Maybe I should just call it a day…

But you know everybody out here. Do you really want to quit in front of everybody?

Well, technically, it’s not quitting. It’s slowing down intentionally. You just ran a marathon. Anybody would understand.

But you love this race and you love Forest Park and you love Clayton and you love St. Louis and all of its stupid, stupid hills. 

Fine.

Even though my deteriorating mile splits seemingly testify to the contrary, I did, in fact, run as hard as I could the whole way.

Now for the sticky part: Guys, when I crossed the finish line, I wasn’t thrilled with the time on the clock. Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t ashamed of my time. But mentally, I groaned. I felt a twinge of disappointment. No, I wasn’t expecting a PR. But… I don’t know… I had figured I would do a little better than that.

It wasn’t anywhere near my best time. It wasn’t anywhere near my worst time. It was simply a time that, had it been a picture on my iPhone, I would have deleted immediately after taking.

SelfieLike a selfie.

I’m beginning to realize that races are like the “selfies” of the running world. We have to take ten (or fifty) before we’re satisfied. We manipulate the angle and the lighting and the filter until we get just the right one, because we’re always convinced we could look a little better. 

Snap! Delete. Snap! Delete. Snap! Delete. Snap! Delete. Snap! There it is!

We feel good about the keepers. The keepers go on Facebook. The keepers stay on our phones. The rejects, on the other hand, cause us to question the worth of our entire existence.

Oh, my gosh! That’s a terrible angle! Do I really look like that? Please tell me I don’t really look like that! Gah! Delete! Delete!

Sunday’s race was a selfie from a bad angle. It was a lot of fun; it just wasn't the most flattering snapshot ever. (My RunnaBabez teammates, however, managed excellent shots, with Lisa gutting out a PR two weeks after PR-ing a full marathon. Sheesh.) 

I imagine the ratio of “Selfies Taken” to “Selfies Kept” is similar to that of “Races Run” and “Races PR’d.” So often we’re convinced we could have run just a little better. Very rarely do I finish a race completely satisfied with the outcome. Usually, I have some kind of explanatory filter to soften the image just a smidgen—the weather, the course, my training, an injury. 

What’s funny is that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter and no one cares. I’m not a professional runner. I don’t have a contract with Nike. My Olympic dreams aren’t hanging in the balance of any race results. So why am I so vain? Why do I want to delete so many “race selfies?”

Taking a group photo at my house is always an ordeal. We have a better chance of winning the Powerball jackpot than we do of snapping a shot in which my two sisters, my mom, and I are satisfied with our appearances. 

“I don’t know why you didn’t like the last one,” my dad will say as we pose for the twentieth time. “I don’t know what you think you look like, but you all must think you’re pretty good lookin’ if you think these pictures are so horrible.” 

Dads. Calling it like it is since the beginning of time.

Yes, I don’t know what kind of runner I think I am if I’m so quick to delete or qualify so many of my race results. Running isn’t linear. To expect consistent results race after race is illogical. Conditions change. Courses vary. Fitness fluctuates. Strengths shift. We all have good days. We all have bad days. We all have just okay days. The only constant should be that we give everything we have from start to finish. Actual results may vary. 

And, hey, they can’t all be keepers.

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