When I publicly announce a goal, I never intend to bail on my attempt to reach it. One of the benefits of participating in the online running community is the accountability we can have with each other.
That said, I'm bailing on my 2012 goal of setting a PR in the 5k. Why? One word: love.
I made one of my many comebacks to running in early 2009. I had a pretty decent stretch of building up the mileage and competing, including running my first marathon in May of 2010. Shortly thereafter, I got injured and have been fighting it ever since. I've made a few attempts at racing since—and during—the injury; some semi-successful, many unsuccessful. I went into this year hoping to, if not put in a lot of mileage, at least work on my "short speed." I ran a 5k in January and had a terrible race. The weather was awful, my time was disappointing, and my attitude was sour, to the point of being embarrassed at my own mental state.
Through this entire process, one thing gradually happened. I lost my love of running. I'm a very competitive person by nature (fast or not), so putting in the work has never been a problem for me. In fact, it's usually "too much, too fast, too often" that I have a problem with. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed getting out there and putting in the miles, the long runs, the tempo runs, the intervals, the races. But during the process, the end overtook the means. I won't say that running became a chore because, as I said, I never had a problem getting out there and putting in the work. What did happen was that I became obsessed with my times, with going for the next big thing, to the point of losing what drew me to running in the first place—that pure, innocent joy of running (as Forrest Gump might say) just to run. Many runners can balance both the joy and the competitive fire. Somewhere along the way, I lost that ability. Thus, my little hissy fit back in January, which led me to give up on running for two months (partially due to some aches and pains, but not entirely).
Fortunately, I do know exactly what I need to recapture. Allow me to flash back to September of 2002. My family and I vacationed on the Oregon coast. I had been running just a little the previous few months. During our vacation we stayed on Rockaway Beach, and that week I got out early in the morning three times to run on the beach. Each one was about 45 minutes, in the mist, with the sound of seabirds and the surf and a persistent salty ocean breeze. Hardly another person in sight. Of course, not every run can be like that, but that pure love of running just for the sake of running is what I need to discover again. When I think of what I love about running, I always recall these runs. Not the speed work, not the races.
I may still run a few races yet this year, but not with the usual competitive fire. Running won't consume me as it has in the recent past. I'll run as often, as far, and at whatever pace feels comfortable.
I'm sure that one day down the road my body and, more importantly, my mind will be ready to shoot for another PR.
Until then, I'll just be a recreational/fitness runner and have fun.