I have had many runs where I was pushing it as hard as I could and wanting to stop, but they always felt good in a twisted masochistic kind of way. This was different. It didn't feel healthy and I have been feeling pretty crappy in the 24 hours since, which is another first. I am glad I finished without stopping, but this run has made me think about what drives me to run and what I get out of it.
For starters, I will be going barefoot for all my running from now on. I just feel that the vibrams (or shoes in general), as awesome as they are, are aiding me to run faster than I am ready for. Although a few weeks ago I was definitely running faster, backing off a bit of late has meant I should have dropped my pace in the run accordingly. I think that's a benefit of going barefoot I hadn't previously considered - your feet toughen up at the same gradual pace that your fitness improves, and you can't really overdo it without getting blisters. So everything will hopefully stay in sync from this point onwards.
I have also realised that although it's fun to push yourself against the clock, I don't know that I'm really all that interested in posting personal bests any more. I get far more enjoyment out of our cruisy runs on the weekends, and I think I'm fit enough now to not be too concerned about times or miles. It feels like pushing it too hard in races is the ego talking, and unhealthy both in mind and body. That's not to say I won't be trying to improve my speed, but I think that will come naturally and gradually as my fitness improves, and the times can fall where they may.
It's a completely different philosophy of running compared to my approach so far, but one that I think will be a lot healthier and much more enjoyable.