Running is about courage. Sure it’s about exercise, and health, and feeling good, and Type-A personalities, and pretty outfits (though not like tennis).
For me, running is that constant metaphor that shows me who I am. It didn’t have to be running. I could have picked anything that would allow me to eat more, dedicate an inordinate amount of my time to it, simultaneously love it and hate it, meet great people, create spreadsheets to track all minute details, and eat more.
Running has shown me all about my fears. A lot of what I fear about running is about not being good enough. I can train hard and not feel fast enough. I can train more than others and not be as fast as they are. I panic thinking that running fast will hurt and I will implode. I can hyperventilate thinking that “everyone” is running faster than me and I am not and it’s all self-defeating. I doubt myself.
We all have ways in which our psyche convinces us that we are less than others. That comparison to others is where we find our faults. Often I wonder: what’s the worst that can happen? I could run a race and be last. No, that’s not even the worst thing I can think of: I could run a race and be slower than I had hoped. No public shaming, no lashings, or jeers — I could deflate myself in a single comparison to someone I usually train with, but didn’t compare in time. I create expectations that I will be the same as someone else.
A wise friend told me that the only fair comparison I can make is to myself, and even then it’s unrealistic because each training cycle, or month, or week or even day, I am dealing with different variables.
I recently went for a bio-mechanical assessment. They found all the things that hurt on me when I run and what is weak in my body. Knowing this, I am amazed I finished my last 10 km of the marathon. But knowing this, I can also appreciate how much I did endure and get through in training to get through that race.
It’s hard to be patient with ourselves where we are at. We want to be somewhere else, because it seems easier and better there. But if we are never content in one spot, we will never be content in another. We will always find those reasons why we aren’t something else. I know that if I stopped running something else would take its place as my emotional challenge. It’s not as easy as just stopping something to rid yourself of a feeling.
I dread the moment where things are hard and I want to stop. I can’t fault myself for how I feel in a moment, but it seems like I do. I need to just learn to go through that feeling and not hold on to it. The next moment will be different. Or the next one.
A few weeks ago I ran a 10km trail race. It was very hilly and we waded through two waist-deep puddles. I felt good for the first third, suffered in the middle, and managed to stoke my ego a little near the end. I passed people running uphill and even managed to get by someone right at the finish line. There were many people I wished I could have run with in the race, but just getting to the finish line was good enough. It’s nice to know some days you can feel okay with good enough.