Racing vs. Running – I Was Shoved

Written by Ann Brennan

Originally published in June 2011, republished because it was on my mind during a run today. I often need reminders of just what it takes to meet the goals I have set for myself.

On Friday afternoon, Coach Jeff emailed me and asked if we could talk about Sunday’s 10k. I rolled my eyes, hung my head, and thought two things, “What could he possibly have to say about this race.” Jeff and Blaise (my fast husband) confer by phone before races. They talk splits and strategy.

But Jeff seldom asks me to talk. He is the ultimate “man of few words.” So, when he asks to talk, there must be a reason.

Unfortunately, because Jeff is a man of so few words he always gets straight to the point and on Friday the point was a little unpleasant.

“Ann,” he said with only the slightest pause, “you are the great underachiever.”

He went on to say that he does not think I try in races, that I am afraid of failing so I don’t give it my all, that I am capable of more than I give.

I wanted to argue with him, but I couldn’t. I knew he was right. I have written here about the mental games I have played with myself for various reasons over the past couple of years but when it comes down to it, Jeff is right.

While I tell people that they probably can run faster than they believe is possible, I do not practice what I preach. I have stopped racing as fast as I know that I can.

Three years ago I was racing. In every race I was giving it my all and I discovered that I really could run faster than I had given myself credit for. That year I set PRs in every race I ran. Then injury and illness struck over and over again and I began to revert back to my old way of thinking. I stopped trying.

So, on Friday afternoon as I sat on the front porch listening to Jeff call me the great underachiever I could not argue. I knew he was right.

“I want you to race. Push yourself on Sunday,” he told me, “I want you to run a 9 minute pace.”

Calculating that out, it meant I had to run the race in 55:55.

Just minutes before I called Jeff I had been content with the idea that I would come in in under an hour. I would have been happy with that. Instead, I was now looking at knocking over 4 minutes off that time and I was looking at doing it the morning after my in-laws 50th Wedding Anniversary party. But I didn’t argue. I couldn’t argue, because this was (excuse my language here but it is the only term I can think of at the moment) “shit or get off the pot” time.

Suddenly that is exactly what it felt like. Here I am working with not one but two coaches. With Jeff coaching my running, swimming and biking and Dan at helping me with my strength, mobility and flexibility it does seem like the time to either race or give up on it all together.

So, I raced. Using the dynamic warm up I had just learned last week with Dan, the plan that Jeff had laid out for me Friday afternoon and my husband who was prepared to help me push through the last mile, I raced my 10k.

I should say I did not race gracefully. I did not race smart. But I raced. I took off too fast and suffered for it later in the race, but I raced the entire time. I didn’t slack off. I stayed focused and I raced.

The truth is that Jeff had pissed me off a little bit and that 55:55 no longer seemed like a challenge. Instead it seemed like an insult. Of course I could run 55:55. Of course I could run better than a 9 minute pace.

I had been fine with the idea of running a 60 minute 10k before Jeff called me the great underachiever but that 55:55 lit a fire and there was no way I was going to be satisfied with that time now.

So, Sunday morning as I raced the Dawson’s Father’s Day 10k, I pushed and I ran. I gave it my all, coming across the finish line two minutes faster than Jeff had suggested, in 53:54.

Looking back on that phone call I have a couple of questions. First I wonder how Jeff felt before the words left his mouth. I am not the easiest person to talk to. Truth be told, I am pretty controlling. I like to be in charge and seldom give up control easily. And while I am guessing it is difficult to approach anybody with a statement like “you are the great underachiever,” I would think it might be even harder to approach me.

Second, I wonder whether he knew. Did he know that I needed to be pushed and underestimated? Did he know that I needed to be shoved rather than guided?

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About Ann Brennan

Ann Brennan is first and foremost a mom of three beautiful children. She is the managing editor of Beyond Limits Magazine and the creator of Ann’s Running Commentary. In 2012, Ann took Ann’s Running Commentary to new levels – first with a segment on the RunRunLive Podcast, chronicling her journey to her first Ironman and second, with a new channel on YouTube. Currently Ann is working on a non-fiction book series and working hard every day to remind people to get up, get active and get out there.
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13 Responses to Racing vs. Running – I Was Shoved

  1. I love this post! I love how you got all mad at the time CoachPRS suggested and kicked that time to the curb by TWO WHOLE MINUTES and one additional second for good measure.


  2. Amy Reinink says:

    I sooooo identify with this post, especially in terms of running. To be honest, I only recently (within the past two years) became aware that you could “race” a 5K or 10K or half-marathon rather than just trying hard and running relatively quickly for you and seeing what happened as a result (still can’t wrap my brain around doing so for a marathon). It’s been a long, long time since I truly raced anything, running-wise. Kudos to you for breaking out of your comfort zone and doing it!

  3. Roxanne Camirand says:

    WOW! Congrats on not only kicking ass at the race but also to take criticism, no matter how positive it is meant to be and make it a challenge that you fought for! I agree, Coach Jeff is a man of a few words…but he is usually effective with his words…You did this, you trained for it, huge congrats!

    Love the honesty and transparency in your posts…
    Thank you!

  4. Ann Brennan says:

    I totally agree. I am often surprised by the knowledge Jeff has. Not just the knowledge of he sport but how well he can read me and know how to push me to give more.

  5. Pamela says:

    Wow, he is a great motivator. Tricky, tricky!! It would have worked on me too 🙂

  6. David says:

    Hi Ann,

    While we have not “officially” met I have been following your recent post on FB and the ATC FB page. I have read this blog post three times now, and it has hit home with me that I have been “racing” the same way. While I am primarily doing triathlons, I have been racing to finish rather that really racing. Great job! keep it up.

  7. Ann Brennan says:

    David, I look forward to meeting more of the Iron Crabs. Until then, I am so happy that you are reading my blog. I don’t think we are alone in our “racing.” I have heard from a lot of readers about this and believe it is something that most people do. After having raced hard in that last race though, I understand the why. Racing is hard. It takes effort AND you put yourself out there. If you aren’t racing and you don’t do well it is no big deal. If you are going for a PR and you don’t get it, it is really pretty gutting. I look forward to hearing how you push yourself in your next race. BTW, please let me know if you hear of any local stories about athletes or events I should cover.

  8. Jacqui says:

    I don’t race either. Never have. Keep thinking I want to, but the whole failure thing is right there in the back of my mind. Great post 😀

  9. Another great ‘retro’ post that works well with the ‘fear’ one you just did. I very much believe we are all faster than we think possible … well, except the really fast folks. 🙂

  10. Ann Brennan says:

    The truth is that other than a handful of elites I really do believe we all have more in us than we allow ourselves to believe. I use my husband as an example. He ran a bunch of marathons and couldn’t break 4 hours. Then he decided he was going to and ran 3:19. Since then he has been aiming at 3 hours but he told me recently that he thinks he has been selling himself short. He thinks he can do even better than that. That amazes me.

  11. David says:

    I believe it. I keep pushing, and I keep doing better. I have to stop telling myself sub-30 5Ks, sub-60 10ks and sub-2 1/2s are good enough. I have to stop using excuses that slow me down – age, weight, previous heart attack – just run.

    I have a race on Sunday, can’t wait to run until I can’t run any longer.

    Thanks for the pep talk!

  12. Ann Brennan says:

    Good luck Sunday David.

  13. Pingback: Even Coach Jeff Makes Mistakes - Ann's Running Commentary

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