Maturity in running

The word “immature” has a negative connotation in most, if not all, contexts. It is associated with being inappropriate, inexperienced, not right or good at whatever you may be doing, rude, or something along the lines of a failure at life. Which is frustrating, to put it simply! Let’s take a step back and erase those connotations for a moment. Maturity is a better word to use, since the opposite of mature is not necessarily immature. Shift the context to running. What does it mean to reach maturity as a runner? Here are my two cents.

My running log from this week and next, five (holy crap!) years ago. Note the zeros at the end – when I got my femoral neck stress reaction (my second stress injury of nine). The runner I am now would not let myself run so many days in a row! Note the goal I wrote at the bottom for the week…very unlike the kind of goals I make for myself now.

First, maturity in running comes with time. It’s kind of like how you can’t offset one too many beers with food. You need time (there goes any attempt at making this a serious, deep post…). Runner A might run nine races in one year, and Runner B might run nine races over three years. If they began running at the same time, it is likely that Runner B is a more mature runner. Why? Runner A might have had some shin splints once and freaked out, heading immediately to the doctor, only to have them subside shortly. Runner B might have had bouts of ITBS, a stress fracture, and an electrolyte imbalance. She might have gotten custom orthotics and then ditched them, tried going minimal and had it not work out, experimented with energy replacement products and different training programs for various race distances. Because three years >>> 1 year. It’s pretty simple. Likewise, Runner C might have been running for three years but never raced more than one or two 5ks. He might be more of a crossfit junkie, making him probably less mature in running than Runner B. I think everyone would agree with me that you can’t claim you have the experience of running a 3:10 marathon because you read a 3:10 marathoner’s race report on her blog. In running, you truly have to personally experience things – training effects, injuries, etc. – in order to gain experience and thus maturity. This takes time. 

Even then, two people running the same race (or run) might have completely different perspectives. You could be running a great race and feeling confident, while your running buddy beside you is subconsciously self-sabotaging herself. Maturity in running is recognizing what you are thinking while you are racing, or doing a workout or a long run: saying, this is what I am trying to do today, and I’m going to get it done and enjoy it (at least the outcome of it).

It is also learning to run for yourself. Competition is what keeps things going, obviously. Running a race and thinking, “I don’t care if I come in last, pass me, pass me!” is generally not normal. Running a race to gain experience and possibly improve your time is, however. If someone passes you, and you use the opportunity to try to keep your head in the game and focus on doing your best, wherever that places you –  I think that is maturity in running.

Another couple of weeks I would never put myself at risk with these days…this was 2007.

Maturity in running also is not dependent on speed. A 3:20 first-time marathoner can take advice and learn from a fifteen-time 4:45 marathoner. We are all different, but we are not that  different. We eat the same gels, drink the same water, and pound the same pavement. Each time we run with someone new, join a new running group, enter a race of a different distance or terrain, or pencil in a new challenge on our training calendars, we are maturing as runners. Having been on high school and college teams for years, I can say that you are not fully mature in running until you have branched out from there. Again, “immature” or “not mature” is contextual and in the case of running, it’s not a bad thing. In fact, it just means that there are worlds of running you have left to explore.

So when are you a “fully mature” runner? The great thing (one of many) about being a runner is there are always more challenges to take on in the sport. At the race Saturday, I ran the 10 miler. There were hundreds of other runners, of all ages and abilities, tackling distances of 20 miles, 50K, and 50 miles. There is a marathon in nearly every big city, every vacation destination! There is so much more to learn. Maybe the answer is never. However, I think it is safe to say that once you can give training advice and plans to nearly every type of runner, new or old, and respect their running needs and goals, you are a pretty darn mature runner. Yet as you do that…you are maturing even more. This is directly applicable to other things “mature” is associated with, like relationships. You are not going to be the most experienced and mature person when it comes to relationships during and after (and obviously before) your first relationship. Not even if you read Cosmo weekly (kidding). Different problems and issues arise in each relationship, because everyone is different, and everyone interacts with each other differently.

Pages upon pages of old training logs….

I love this.

A recent discussion I had with fellow runners the day after Febapple really got me thinking about all of this. I kind of forgot Brennan is such a relatively new runner, because she is so enthusiastic about it all, runs a lot of races, runs probably more miles than me, and is fast! As evidenced by her post, it seems she did too. We might wear the same shoes now, and run our long runs at the same pace, but we are so different! Every time I can push myself to go faster, or  when I get a nervous feeling before a workout or race – I like it. It has been denied to me so many times that I will literally just run away with these feelings and get competitive with myself, because I finally can. I have never felt the need for a mental break from running. Not many runners can say that. When I sign up for a race, it is a big deal. It means I am going to work as hard as I can to keep myself healthy for it and run well. We also discussed “running on a whim” – something Brennan apparently embraced when she started running. I never did, really, I always knew when I was going to run, and approximately how far, which was fine with me, it was still fun! There are the days I run after work when I didn’t plan on it, and I love those days! But in general, I need to be so careful that I must plan. All of these discussions really got me thinking about how different runners are, and the idea of maturity in running…these are just my opinions.

In other news, I found my missing Brooks Adapt glove today. You can now all go back to what you were doing.

Phew.

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