Back in the day, I was a pretty good runner. However, I made the mistake of trying to stay good in my 30s and beyond by using the strategy of my 20s. This mainly involved running 80-90 miles per week and training everyday. This worked great for a while, then I found myself getting worse. Foolishly, I responded by training harder and that merely made things worse. As luck would have it, this cycle was broken by an accident: I fell off my roof and tore my quadriceps tendon on March 26, 2009. This took me out of running for quite a while and had two major impacts (well, three if the fall is counted). The first is that I was forced to cross train (that is, do stuff other than running). The second is that I was forced to rest. Somewhat ironically, when I was able to get back to racing, I was faster than I had been in recent years. I am, in defiance of age, still getting faster. I’m obviously not as fast as I was in my youth, but it is great to be improving rather than declining with each race.
This improvement restored my competitive spirit and I found myself creating the List. The List is a list of my fellow runners, specifically those I want to beat. Being realistic, I actually have several lesser lists. After all, the List consists of everyone who is faster than me. My main lesser lists are my 5 List and my 10 List. As you might imagine, the 5 list consists of the next 5 people I want to beat and the ten list, well I am sure you get the picture. I also have a special list of people I really, really want to beat. Usually, these people are my friends. Yes, I do tell them that they are on the list.
Like some other athletes, I have a somewhat odd approach to what counts as beating a person. Merely finishing ahead of a person does not count (although I do accept any award that goes with doing that). To count as a beating, I have to finish ahead of the person and they must be at full strength. This means that if the person is sick, injured or suffering significant emotional distress (going through a divorce for example), then the beating does not count (unless the person insists that these conditions had no impact on their run). So, there are some people I have finished ahead of, but I do not accept that I beat them. I don’t expect other people to follow my system. So, for example, I don’t take issue with the people who say that they beat me when I started racing again after my leg was busted. After all, they did finish ahead of me and that is the standard view of beating.