On July 1st, I registered for the Colfax Marathon in Denver, Colorado. Since then, I have been training full bore to get in marathon shape. When I first started training, I envisioned that I would start writing again on a biweekly basis. In my head, this marathon was supposed to be my triumphant return to both serious running and consistent writing. Serious running happened, consistent writing did not.
Here was my problem with writing. If I was going to put out something biweekly, what was the focus? One option was highlights each day’s training and reflect on that but having done that before it felt stale. The other option I came up with is that the marathon represents life; therefore, every other week I would use my running as a way to reflect on what it means to be alive or some deeper meaning that could be taken away from running. I liked this second idea but it felt daunting. Sometimes running is just running. Also, a semi self aware 26 year old like myself realizes that I don’t know shit about life sometimes. Those were my only two ideas so I just gave in on the writing and figured let me just run then the writing will figure itself out.
With the Colfax Marathon a little less than a month away (October 16th to be exact), I have come across a few things worth sharing. What follows are a few quotes, concepts, and other ramblings of a person training for their second marathon. Enjoy!
- “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” -Henry David Thoreau
Replaces the word fishing with running and the word fish with fitness and Bang! You’ve nailed it. This marathon training cycle has caused me to reflect a lot on my relationship with running. Why do I run every day?
Many people I know think I run every day because of the health benefits. I appreciate the sentiment and the health benefits are a plus, but that’s not what is driving me out there all the time. Obviously, the next question is what makes me run everyday?
The truth is, I feel incomplete on the days I do not run. I need that physical challenge, that pain, that feeling of getting a little better each, to feel like myself. I cannot imagine a life without the physical challenge running provides me. This may not be the most healthy relationship with something, but I feel like my most true, authentic self when I am running. Whatever my purpose is on Earth, running is a part of that.
2. You do your best running when you are most happy.
This realization was a direct challenge to my conventional wisdom. Throughout college, ours men’s cross country team had a theory that young men always do their best running after a serious breakup. Our theory was that after a bad breakup, young men are so hurt inside that they are finally ready to embrace all the pain that comes from being a distance runner. No race or workout can hurt as bad as a broken heart.
Once leaving college, I added on to this theory. I believed young men did their best running when they felt sad. If you wanted to get the best out of your running, I believed you had to be going through something. I had all this anecdotal evidence. In high school, my best year of running was preceded by a bad breakup. Junior year of college was the same story. My best year of post-collegiate running was my first year of teaching. That whole first year I felt like a failure every day at school but was doing some of my best running.
Basically, I believed for many years that young men could not do their best running unless they were facing hard circumstances. This is a toxic mindset and one day I’ll write a piece about all the toxic things I believed growing up. I was wrong.
This marathon training cycle, I’ve done workouts I never thought I would be able to do. I’m doing some of the best running and I’ve ever done. And what surprised me? I’m really happy with my life. I feel secure in my work. I have discovered a new passion for coaching and I think I have the potential to be good at it. I’ve started a new relationship that feels healthy and I’m excited about it. I have friends and family that both love and support me. You don’t need to be in a deep, dark, empty place to do your best running.
3. When you’re walking out into the ocean, there is a point where you feel your feet barely touching the sand. That is the point where you are supposed to make art.
I was listening to a podcast where one of my favorite comedians, Hasan Minhaj said something like this. He attributed the quote to David Bowie. Unfortunately I cannot find the original quote but the sentiment rings true.
It feels great to feel comfortable, just as it feels great to be standing on secure ground in water. There’s very little risk in that feeling. For a few years, that is where I’ve lived my life. I have been comfortable, not even approaching failure. What I’ve come to realize is while comfortable is nice, there is something lacking. I feel a need to operate in a place that is a little more scary, with more risks.
To settle is the opposite of progress. I need to operate in a place that pushes me to be better. For a while, I thought I would just keep running and never try the marathon again. The marathon is so hard and my first one I ran 2 hours, 53 minutes. That was good enough to get me into the Boston Marathon, so I thought it would be fine to just go to my grave with that being my one marathon.
I was wrong. That does not fulfill and I need to give the marathon another go. It scares me truly, knowing that I could very well run Colfax and not beat my previous time. But it also feels so much more fulfilling knowing that I’m going for it. This is a concept I want to apply to the rest of my life.
4. Life is most fulfilling when you pursue an activity to the best of your ability.
I don’t know how people live their lives a different way. For me, I want to be the best I can be at any activity I do. This is most prominent when I run. I want to know just how I can be at this one thing. It’s part of what gets me out the door some days.
I want to know how good of a teacher I can be. I want to know how good of a coach I can be. These are not things I can just walk away from. There are days where I wish I could stop caring about these things. I see other people who can just accept that this is a job, or this is just exercise. They can be at peace just doing what is required of them. I’m jealous. These people appear to be at peace.
I’m not shaming those people who seem to be at peace. I’m envious. But I know that I feel most alive when I feel like I give my all to something. The things that I do, the things that I care about, deserve 100% of me. Anything less of that and I always feel like I’m questioning. Could I be better at this? Could I have run faster? Could I have helped that runner be a little bit better? Could I have done a better job fostering a love for sport or learning? The only way I’ll feel satisfied is if I pour my heart and soul into the things I do.
There is more quotes, concepts and ramblings I have. Lookout for those before October 16th. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!