The truth is, I'm not very motivated to race this year. I'm loving that my level of fitness is allowing me to have some great fun trail runs, but I seem to have lost my competitive drive. I don't care about racing the clock or anyone else at this point. I admit that am looking forward to the Vermont 100, as I think of a hundred miler as more of a personal journey than a race. I plan on running Northern Nipmuck next weekend, but I can't seem to think of it as anything more than a fun trail run on different trails than I usually run on. Am I sad to see my competitive spark leave after 35 years of racing track, cross country, road, and trail? No, I am quite happy! I am as strong and fit as ever. I plan to keep running as long as these legs will carry me, but I am finding different rewards for my efforts now.
I have seen other runners step aside after racing for years. Running friends and I have been heard to ponder, "what ever happened to ...?" Some of these people have reconnected with me and I have seen that they did not disappear off the face of the Earth after all. One former road racing rival of mine has moved on to climbing, which she does amazingly well. Several others have moved into the gentler-on-the-body sport of road cycling. Many have gone the popular route of triathlon. Several have discovered that a strenuous hike or backpack through the mountains is a fun weekend alternative. As long as it keeps you fit and active, do what you enjoy!
Quite a few who disappeared from the racing scene are out there running just as strong and fast as ever, but don't care to race anymore. Driving through a neighboring town, I often see a woman who used to race at a highly competitive level running down the road at what looks like about a six minute pace. She isn't racing anymore, so we can't call this training. I guess she just enjoys running fast for it's own sake!
Of course, hoards of old running acquaintances are still out there hitting the road races and trail races each weekend. I know some who race twice each weekend! I don't check the race results very often, but once in a while I glance at results and I am always happy to see that among the many new names, there are some veterans still taking their sport seriously and still running decent times. Somehow, it has not grown old to them and they are still finding it rewarding and fun, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it!
I am finding that my running is no longer about getting to the finish line as fast as I can. Right now, it seems to be more about the journey. I'll be putting the miles in and showing up at a few trail events this year. But, I am really looking forward to buying a season pass for mountain biking on the Kingdom Trails and spending enough time out there to get my money's worth!