Last month I ran two races a few days apart that, whilst being two of my worst runs ever, were also two of the best experiences. Each was a 5 mile road race. On the Wednesday evening of the first one, I stood near the front of ~600 runners, trying not to burst into tears because I felt so utterly exhausted. (Tension had been holding me together for ages and I'd made the mistake of relaxing a bit.) The event was being hosted by my home club so I either needed to run it or help in the kitchen. Being in the kitchen would require the capacity to combine action with friendly chatter; running required only action. Hence I toed the line. At the off I headed out too fast as usual, trying to find a reasonably clear space and a rhythm. That strategy worked well enough for about 3 miles and then the tears started to flow. I stopped suddenly, somewhat disconcerting the club mate I'd been running beside. He hesitated, but I gestured him along, walked a pace or so and started again. The remainder of the race was me walk-running, trying to limit walking to where there were few observers - a difficult task as the town streets were lined with spectators and marshals. Fellow runners came up to my side, checked on me and kept me going forward. I finished, but it wasn't pretty.
The Saturday after that I was still wrung-out but friends in another local club were hosting their annual women-only event. On the start line a fellow V45 athlete teased me into joining her campaign to flaunt our good-for-age stomachs. Stress lifted and I was glad of the excuse roll up my vest on a very hot day. There were no tears on this run, but again at 3 miles I felt utterly sapped of any energy and walked-ran the remainder, confusing and concerning marshal friends who knew me capable of more. With 300 metres to go we entered an athletics track and I asked the runner behind me to overtake rather than face a final push on an empty track. Afterwards I wasn't alone. As dads looked after toddlers playing in the sand of the long jump pit, we tired, hot, bemused-at-messing-up-a-run (I wasn't the only one) women hugged, laughed and were thankful for sunshine Saturdays in June & warm-hearted better-to-try-than-sit-on-your-backside friends.
We all have bad days. We all have times when we 'merely' get around. Don't judge yourself harshly for the slower finish time; celebrate the toughness to get out there and do it anyway even if the darn slow time is recorded for posterity on a variety of websites! The generosity and compassion of my fellow athletes have been better rewards than a PB. Really they have.