What I say out loud: “I don’t really know what my race times will look like, but I know I won’t ever run as fast as I did in college again.”

What I think: “I wonder if I could beat my college times if I train hard enough.”

When I started thinking about running and racing again, my mind almost instantly started thinking about how fast I’d like to run.  It was a silly conversation to have with myself, given that I hadn’t even bothered to dig my running shoes out of the back of the closet yet, but I can’t imagine running without some sort of time goal in mind.  I settled on a sub-23 since that would have been a comfortably average time for during my high school cross-country days.  Nothing spectacular, but not a bad race either.  I’d probably get a “Good job” from my coaches, along with the usual warning to try a little harder in practice next week (every coach that I ever had always, always said I should have been racing faster than I was).  The time wasn’t overly ambitious, but gave me a little more focus than”we’ll see how this goes.”  It would be crazy to try to pick up where I left off, but maybe I could go back to the beginning.

My husband, however, thinks I should totally disregard any previous times, even for use as a guideline (I feel it pertinent to mention that he is not a runner).  It’s not just, he says, that I should put those times in a separate category from my times now, but that they shouldn’t influence at all my understanding of my own ability.

I get where he’s coming from, I do.  I first ran almost 15 years ago.  Since then I’ve picked up age, asthma, a desk job, ten solid pounds of hips and ass, a love of beer and the accumulated effects of years of a sedentary lifestyle.  I don’t really know that almost-30-year-old me is anywhere near the same league as 16-year-old-me.

But, still, that ambition to be faster is there.  And here’s the thing that I’m really banking on: I’m way tougher now than I was as a teenager.  Remember how I said all my coaches always told me I should be racing better than I was?  I was a whiny runner.  I hated speed work, and consistently slacked on any track work longer than a 300.  I was scared of pushing too hard in races, and always finished with way too much in the tank.  I rarely did any of my assigned “on your own” training runs.  I was a total running slacker.

Now, as a job-having, bill-paying adult, I’m still prone to fits of laziness and certainly not perfect in my discipline and dedication.  But I am a lot more focused and a lot more driven.  I understand more acutely that ability can only go so far, and how much benefit hard work brings.  And I’m hoping that mental vigor, and the speed sessions and training runs that go along with it, will make up for anything I’ve lost in the last few years.

It’ll be a while coming though.  I don’t think my first race (in a week, yikes!) is going to get me my 22.  But, I’ve got to start somewhere, I can only get faster from there.  For now, my old pr is off the table as a goal, but I’m still holding the card, just in case.