A decade of Running
“If you train your mind for running, everything else will be easy.” Amby Burfoot
Welcome to this week’s blog. This blog is about how the quote from Amby Burfoot above materialized in my life. Given that most of us will soon be indulging in the annual ritual of “making resolutions”, I hope this blog will provide tailwind to resolutions around making your life better.
“Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself, you can learn in 26.2 miles.” -Lori Culnane, marathon runner
Last week, I realized that I completed a decade of running. I would characterize my running as squarely middle-of-the-road variety. I started out with the “ultimate” goal of running 5 kilometres non-stop and have come as far as running a hand-full of half-marathon races, several full marathon distances and a couple of ultra-marathons. Barring one full marathon, where I came about 80% close to what I would call as ideal training, the rest were all half-baked attempts with quarter baked results. My timing for full marathons ranged from 4 hour 10 minutes to 5 hours and 30 minutes. The ultra-run events that I participated in, were more running festivals and less races. I did 62K and a 66K.
“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself — expanding and learning as you go — you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”– Dean Karnazes
The reason I would like to reflect on the positives from running is that running clarified the method and purpose for the rest of my life, kind of. After I started to run, my career started to look up and with my increasing maturity in running, my career blossomed. Even my personal investments have structures along with my running journey. Running fed into other important dimensions of my life. I can never overstate how beneficial running has been for me. My life turned around. Physiological benefits of running turned out to be happy by-product.
First, two relatively distinct things about my running:
- I have mostly been a lone runner — while I’m part of a few running groups, I do almost all of my running alone — rarely have I ever joined group runs. I do believe in the power of group-running, particularly in getting one started into running and in improving performances. But I also believe that most of psychological benefits of running can be derived from running “alone”. There is huge benefit in being your own cheerleader. The discipline of sticking to your plans when no one else is watching — subconsciously permeates into other aspects of your life like career, personal finance, relationships etc. It also psychologically set me up for the journey of life which in any case is to be travelled alone
- I do not run with music. Where I run, it is critical to be alert particularly to the vehicles whizzing past you — they tend do go faster than usual given relatively sparse traffic in the wee hours of the day. And then there is the menace of street dogs — otherwise docile dogs somehow get aggressive in the dark. Music may block the early warning signals from these factors. Also, music can blunt some of the pain and boredom of running — but I prefer to fully engage with the pain and boredom. For me, running is the sandbox for developing ability to deal with the normal tedium of life. Before running, I was much more given into excitement of 24 news channels, movies, thrilling fictional novels etc
They say running is a metaphor for life and I completely agree. In fact, it is a metaphor in more ways than one.
“Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far one can go.”- T.S. Elliot
Running is a long game and so is life.
Running is about journey and so is life.
Destination for running and life is empty, hollow nothingness. You start and end with nothing. Life and running are about the journey — the experience from start to the end.
Running and Life are brutal, impartial teachers.
Running and Life yield to consistent efforts — long breaks result in having to start afresh, however, consistent marginal improvements lead to windfall gains at a later stage.
“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
Different people have different goals in running — pace, distance, joy, confidence, social standing etc; Different people have different goals in life — career, family, community, spirituality, hobbies etc, To each one’s own in both life and in running.
People tend to get lost in rat race both in life and in running
There are bad days and good days.
It is easy and tempting to quit hard running efforts and ambitious life projects.
“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually, you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” — George Sheehan
Both life and running humble you — they crush your ego and then emancipate you from its clutches.
Failures and setbacks keep recurring until you learn from them and move onto facing “bigger” setbacks — this is true in running and in life
It takes a long time of being at it to begin to understand what you really want out of running and out of life
Once you start to understand yourself, both running and life become easy — they stop being burdens and start providing you tailwinds on your path of discovery and progress.
In both, you get in proportion to what you put in it. If you stop putting efforts in it, you start falling behind. You cannot sit on your past laurels.
There are times when you are better off slowing down and there are times when you are primed to speed up. Running slow is not easy — it tends to get very tedious. Equally, it is hard to sustain fast runs. Slowing down in life is not easy — no wonder sabbaticals are so rarely taken and going fast leads to burnout quickly enough. Both running and life can benefit from large amount of slow, easy humdrum with occasional bursts of high intensity.
A supporting community around you can help elevate your performance and help maintain progressive path.
After ten years, it feels like I am starting the next phase of my running journey. As I’m recovering from damaged MCL tissue on my right knee and a slightly wonky left knee. I have started to run real slow and quite tentatively. But unlike with the past injuries, now I’m full of optimism at what the future holds as opposed to being nervous about what I will be constrained from achieving. I look forward to running without any objective measures (no-device running) — purely to be guided by intuition and feel.
“Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never ever give up, things will turn out for the best.” — Meb Keflezighi
I discovered running serendipitously. Running transformed me. I moved on from putting “pace” in high esteem to primarily monitoring Heart Rate now. Similarly in life, I moved on from going after career and money to being guided by curiosity and discovery.
Running need not be everyone’s “thing”. Same benefits can be realized from any activity, sport or vocation that allows one to progressively challenge themselves and that allows reflection on causes of gain and setbacks. I wish everyone discovers their own version of “running” and benefits from the consequent rich bounty.
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