Reflections from the journey of a new MVSer (Thank you, Merrimack Valley Striders!)
All successful journeys begin with a desire and can complete only with a plan. In my case, the journey is surely still going on, but I am at a milestone nevertheless worth reflecting on.
As far as I can recall, I have been a curious runner but never quite enjoyed it. Either because I couldn’t hold my own among peers and/or perhaps because I never bothered to ask for help. Regardless of the past, I am thrilled to now be among friends, peers and athletes that encourage, support, and challenge me to get better every week. I am referring to YOU, Merrimack Valley Striders! This is my first year with the running club and I am happy to say that already the Tues/Thurs Track trainings and weekend runs – hosted runs and the Iron Series races, are the highlight of my week.
In 2016 (Aug 11, 2016), I was a tentative runner and (largely) encouraged by my wife, Shilpa to occasionally run 5Ks. We ran may be one or two a year. One race that we ran as a family was the Cigna/Elliot 5K. All things relative, we had a good race and I was happy to finish the 5K with a 34:51:0 time. This past week (Aug 11, 2022), Cigna/Elliot 5K was back in-person again and Shilpa and I ran the race. I want to share that I PR’ed with a 24:30.9 time. Nothing huge for many of my super-athlete MVS runners here, but a marked improvement for me from where I was in 2016. A milestone made possible in no small measure by the coaching, support and a ‘must-have’ plan achieved through MVS. As I look back at the change, this is something I want to reflect on.
I share these numbers above not to boast in any way in this humble group but to share three important things I’ve learned about running.
Form over speed – During my first track session in Fall 2021, MVS coaches Sharon Johnson and Lisa Fields Cross ensured I had this down. They regularly reminded me of ways to improve and my post-run aches and soreness have significantly reduced. By focusing on form, I’ve automatically improved on speed but most importantly, I’ve begun to enjoy running.
Efficiency over effort – I am a technologist and I help people, processes and machines become more efficient on a daily basis. But I forgot to apply this principle towards my running. MVS coaches Sharon, Amy Quinlan, Mary Beth Ellis and Paul Lawrence McGovern observed me at the track runs and highlighted several seemingly little things that add up to run more efficiently and tire less. While I have a long way to go before these best practices become habit for me, I know that keeping this principle in mind will surely help.
Community is essential – We all have good, bad, and yes, “ugly” days when it comes to running. But having a community of friends – what the 500+ MVSers have become for me, is so essential! The community support you get when we’re together doing runs (including the guidance from peer runners – shout out to Julia Hardy for reminding me to lower my shoulders while running) and/or when offline on social media, etc., is something I am glad I can lean on. Especially, when I need that extra motivation to get out whether it’s 20 degrees or 85 degrees outside and that ‘long run’ just needs to get done! Not to mention, I am reminded what my mother used to tell me – “you get better when you’re among others better than you.” And at MVS, I feel this way. The inclusive, diverse community brings all these essential aspects.
I know I have a long way to go when it comes to becoming a better runner (my body permitting :-)) but I know I have a group of friends, coaches and inspiring athletes that are already making this journey a lot of fun!
Cheers and see you at the track or the next MVS hosted or Iron Series run!