On goals, WoW, and frustration

Before I was a runner, I spent a LOT of time on my arse in front of my computer. Since November 2004, when World of Warcraft launched, I’d devoted nearly all of my free time to playing that game and improving myself in an alternate reality.

If I wasn’t goal-oriented and progress-driven already, the 6+ years I spent playing WoW served to completely solidify that bent in my personality. WoW is all about goals. Everything in the game is designed as a tantalizing carrot dangling above you, serving to keep you ever reaching, ever striving for that next achievement, the next piece of gear, the next level, the next title, the next boss killed. I spent those 6 years in the game literally logging in as soon as I got home from work and spending 4 or 5 hours in-game trying to be as good as I could possibly be. It wasn’t enough for me to just contribute; I wanted to be the best at whatever it was I was doing. Of course in WoW, a game with over 11 million players (at least at that time), it’s hard to be the best at anything, but success could be measured in smaller ways – best in my guild, best at my tradeskills, the most funny titles, the most pets, etc. etc.

I think this goal-driven mentality crossed over into my running when I basically quit WoW at the beginning of this year to train for my first half-marathon (after all, I could no longer devote all my free time to raiding and gearing up when I had scheduled runs to do!). I wanted to see progress,  I wanted to improve, I wanted to see some kind of return for my efforts. And I did complete 3 half-marathons this summer, not fast ones by any means, but I crossed those finish lines with a huge sense of accomplishment.

I finished the 3rd on on July 17th. In the weeks and months since then I’ve felt a pretty strong sense of frustration about my running progress, or the lack thereof. I haven’t really gotten faster, and in fact in recent months have been moving backward in that department. Compared to a year ago I’m probably only about 30-45 seconds per mile faster on my average easy runs (maybe about a 10:15 or 10:30 mile compared to an 11). I’ve watched friends at similar running levels go on to become super speedy and achieve PRs I could barely dream of. The lack of personal progress has me FRUSTRATED.

Maybe it’s that WoW goal-driven mentality cropping up again, but I want to see results for the work I put into running, and to see basically zero progression almost makes me want to give up on trying altogether. The lack of a concrete goal at this point (I’m basically just running for maintenance; I don’t have a race to point for or a training plan I’m following) is probably part of it, but I wonder too if I haven’t just lost my running mojo, so to speak. A lot of my runs are miserable – I feel like I’m just dragging arse and not enjoying it much at all. Again, this could also be because I’m not really following a plan and am only getting in around 10-14 miles per week, I don’t know.

It seems a lot of people really only pick up the LOVE for running once they get into the extra long distances – basically, marathon training. That seems like SUCH a chore to undertake… so many miles! So much time!… but maybe that’s what I need?

Ben Davis is planning to hit Seattle next year on his 52-in-52 marathon bonanza. (The marathon he’s planning to do here is the Seattle Marathon, which is hilltacular so I’ve heard, blehhh…) One little voice in the back of my head is telling me to sign up and go along on the marathon ride. I’m just not so sure I really want to do that to myself… but maybe that’s just what I need.

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