Last night I went to my first track workout with the Dashing Whippets, a local running club that, incidentally, after the workout, I am now sure I want to join. While usual track workouts involve intervals at set distances, last night's was a bit different; it was a benchmark workout. They do these workouts once a quarter and the whole purpose is to see where you are at in your running.
One of the things I love about running is that, for most of us mere mortals, training and racing isn't about beating everyone else. We're not running for bragging rights, we're running to see how far we can push ourselves and to see how much we can grow and improve. In other words, while running is very competitive, most of that competition is internal. That's why you always here runners talk about PRs (U.S) or PBs (everywhere else), personal records and personal bests.
Last night's workout illustrated this perfectly. The whole point of a benchmark workout is to establish a yardstick against which you can measure yourself. While you may be running with others, it's not someone else's fitness that matters, it's your own. I've been keeping a running log for ages now, but since most runs (except for races) are done at prescribed paces, it can be hard to pinpoint improvement. I'm really excited about the prospect of working with a team and watching my performance (hopefully) improve.