Tales of Running: "What's Your Time?": Both Sides of the Conversation

So I should be 4 runs into the season at this point and should be up to some 20 miles a week.  Sadly to say I'm not on either count.  However, I will may make it up on the other end and pick up some more runs (for instance, I did sign up for the 25K Around the Cape and I'll likely sign up for the Nahant 30K).  Regardless, the running is going well.  As I finished a 8.5 mile today, feeling good and relaxed; coming in around 1 hour 25 minutes (10 minute miles), my body felt it could have easily gone further.

Energize the Earth 10K Results
The two runs that I did complete, I was very happy about as they showed overall, an improvement in time over last year and just felt good to be out running with the herd again.  The Energize the Earth 10K in Beverly was a pretty nice route finishing up at Lynch Park.  I also ran into a friend who's been getting into running of late (I'll give ya a hint--he runs Arts After Hours in Lynn).  There was a 5K and a 10K option and the 10K was just a second loop.  Initially, I wasn't thrilled with this, but it actually helped push me better since I knew the route and the upcoming obstacles.  This is similar to how often my runs in Salem do better than entirely new places as I'm familiar with the upcoming route elements. So my time was actually really good (for me) for a 10K.  My low goal was 1 hour 2 minutes and high goal was 58 minutes.  But I blew past that can came in at just under 56 minutes.  It was definitely an epic win for me.  I have no intention or ability to become a speed demon, but progress in time indicates I'm doing something right (at least at this stage).   The HAWC 5 Mile Run was equally rewarding in that I was hoping to complete it under 45 minutes (and low goal of 49 minutes) and came in just under 43 minutes.

Both runs have gotten me excited about this running season in that I feel I have the confidence of nearly 2 years of running behind me.  Today's run (Friday, May 10) of 8.5 miles was comfortable with no moment feeling like it was overwhelming or daunting.  It was an enjoyable gallop!

HAWC 5 Mile Run Results
But beyond the update, what has me blogging today on running is two conversations I had back to back and the realization of several different things at once.  As some of my few dear reads now, I think a lot. In particular, I think a lot about how I come across to others.  This self-consciousness doesn't stem from a lack of self-confidence but rather a desire to assure that in my communicating, I don't come across too abraisive, insensitive, or thoughtless.  Which is not to say that I wholly succeed in avoiding such interpretations but I prefer to do them as less as possible.  There is a variety of circumstances contributing to who I am as an individual and where I fit within the culture that could generate a persona that acts as the proverbial bull in the china shop.  So I continually try to temper that and keep it in check.  One of the ways I do this is just by reflecting on my interactions and taking note of what I could do differently or being aware that my intention and results didn't quite sync.  

So what were these two conversations?  Let's start with the conversation that happened second.  I ran into a friend from high school who was doing the HAWC Run.  I hadn't seen this person in well over a decade and so we began chatting for a few and both of us were in the same boat of having just started running recently.  Her husband came over and introduced himself.  He has been running for years and was glad to meet another runner.  The first question he asked was, "What's your time?"

I runz good!
I tend to answer this question with a prefaced "just" or "only."  "I 'just' (or 'only') do about 9 to 9.5 minute miles."  I can't help it.  It just finds its way there.  It's a "just" I'm familiar with.  I often found it sticking in my throat when I describe my work as an "adjunct instructor" (many of my adjunct colleagues feel this experience too).  It reminds me of the move, Haiku Tunnel, by Josh Kornbluth wherein he talks about the incessant need to put "just" before his title, "I'm 'just' a secretary."  Maybe it's from the experience of always being the last kid running in every sports practice I have ever participated in (save maybe twice--and I wish that was an exaggeration).   I realized it's a bit of an intimidating question to answer or at least at times it can feel intimidating as I feel there is somewhere judgment and evaluation in answering the question.  

This brings me to my first conversation (a conversation that happened about 5 minutes before this one).  The first conversation was with a woman who introduced herself to me as we share a mutual friend.  She knew I was running and had seen my pic on FB so she came up and introduced herself.  As soon as we got through introductions, I rushed into "So what's your time?"  Now, I did have good intentions in asking this.  I had wondered if we were close in time and could run together.  I certainly know when I have someone nearby that helps to push me to better results.  Also, given that I had just met her and wanted to chat with her some more as she seemed like a cool person from my friend's description, running together would be ideal.  And finally, the race was shortly about to begin so I figured it would be a good transition to head to the starting line.  Our times were in different ranges and when she answered, she did the same thing I did She downplayed her time.  I can't remember if she used "only" or "just" but she did frame it that way and somewhere I realized what I that the question may have set her up to that.  So I probably went a little bit into overdrive to encourage and compliment her efforts.  Authentic yes--but I felt like I was stumbling through it like a bad interview where you know you've made a faux passe and are afraid to call attention to it for fear you will make it more of a "thing" that it actually is.

But in congratulating her about her efforts and growing appreciation of running, I worried that I might have come across as a bit condescending.  Something I also equally loathe to do to anybody (intentionally or accidentally).  To me, it's still pretty amazing to show up and run.  I still sometimes have inner battles about going to a run (clearly--I skipped out on two out of four).  Thus, here was another foot soldier in the battle to run and wanted to make sure I gave respect to that.    

So in the span of 10 minutes, I was immersed in the same conversation on both sides having to do with running and timing.  Upon reflecting, I realized that the man who asked me mostly likely had good intentions and that my asking of the woman certainly wasn't mean or condescending.  In the future, maybe I should find a different way of asking that doesn't somehow solicit the "just" or "only."  I mean I get why I do it and why others do it, but hell, we're running and that to me is always pretty freaking awesome.

Beyond a doubt, I'm likely overthinking this, but I'd be curious to hear from other runners in your experience of asking and answering the question, "What's your time?"  What kind of thoughts and emotions does it generate?  Do you ever feel challenged to answer it  or respond when there is a discrepancy between your time and the other person's time?



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