Wednesday, December 7, 2011


When things get tough.  You either grow or you grow a tumor.

What can be said for people that artificially make things tough for themselves?  Why would someone run outside on the icy roads in bone-chilling rain or in death-inducing heat with salt and dust baking into your sun-burned skin?  Why do we run?

On Monday I had one of the more difficult runs I can remember: 6 miles easy with hill sprints, and then 2x20 second drills.  The distance was doable.  That's a normal run for me on a weekday.  The hill sprints are awesome.  I can pull my inner "Jerry Rice" out on demand.  The drills at the end are refreshing.  I love the looks I get from the kids walking their dogs, or the retirees looking through their bedroom windows as I do karaokes or skipping for distance.  No it wasn't even the chilling freezing rain, the fact that I had a painful wind blowing into my face for a good 45 minutes of the run, or the fact that I was drenched through to my toes and fingers.

It was difficult because I began to doubt.

I began to tell myself that running faster is hard.  That there is a barrier of PAIN that waits for me when I want to improve.  That I can't achieve this goal that I am seeking.  That I haven't trained well.  I haven't eaten well.  I haven't had the right mental attitude.  I left my front door on Monday's run, thinking the enemy was outside; that the enemy was the world; that the enemy was the elements.

No.  The enemy was me.

* * *

I'm a practicing Roman Catholic.  I pray for many reasons and in many forms and styles.  But I never pray for running.  I never use the tools that have gotten me this far and apply it to running.  I never pray for the runners, the race organizers, the volunteers.  I never pray for my wife and family because they have helped me to be a runner.  I have been simply animistic to this point in time.  I have simply let my body worship at the Church of running with no spiritual commentary.  If I have added anything, it is a bit of intellectual flowering in collecting numbers and setting target.

It may be too late for this race on Saturday, but I vow before all of you to find a technique that is suitable for me, which will help me visualize and be totally present in my running.  I've approached my running as if I was a lab rat in an experiment.

Help me out.  What do you do to visualize your running?  How do you spiritualize your running?  What books do you read?  How do you prepare for running?  How do you prepare for racing?


it's all about pace said...

When running well... I feel (think) tall... I feel (think) smooth and effortless... I relax and enjoy

it's all about pace said...

Oh... and exellent post btw

Kepa said...

As a beginning runner I guess I haven't gotten to the point where I have a visualization technique. I am at the point of discovery with every run. Once I get enough experience and stabilize my techniques I will probably be able to begin visualizing. If anything I often visualize a major injury that I received a couple years ago.

Kenley said...

I visualize myself in the present tense as I run and constantly anylize my current condition. I try not to let my mind interfere with what my body is doing, for the mind can help or destroy. Sometimes, though, for visualization, I think of a horse racing with its nostrils going in and out, and or how easy Kenyans run with grace and style well far beyond mine. For preparation, I stay relaxed, and in the moment. I make sure that I cover all the basics (hydration, fueling, etc) For racing, I just go for it and end up either learning a lesson, or nailing it.

Anonymous said...

As a free agent spiritual person ive found that at some point in most runs, whether its most of the run or just 5 minutes, I am able to find total piece and clarity within. That gets me back on the road every time.

Kate said...

Oh, man, I know just what you're talking about with doubt. There are those rare and wonderful times where I stop thinking about running and am just running, and then I realize I'm running fast and then I almost immediately feel worn out because of course I can't run fast. If I could keep my brain out of the way I'd be in much better shape.

Like you, I'm not typically one to pray about running--at least, not about running faster or better or anything like that--but occasionally I'll just feel a huge burst of joy and thankfulness that I CAN run or that I'm able to be outside on the trails running and send up a prayer of thanks.

Ewa said...

I wish I knew the answer to this one. For me it is different with every run. Sometimes it is just intense focus on my form, sometimes it is immersing myself in music, sometimes it is enjoying the scenery, and many times it is hard work inspired by fear of going back to unfit me with a promise of feeling great after I complete the run.
I would not dismiss prayers for a good run. Running will help you stay fit and healthy. That adds to being a good father and husband. Just a thought.

Jill said...

I'm not sure I'm a visual type person, but what I like to tell myself out there is that this moment that I'm running and it feels hard and difficult is very short-lived compared to the lifetime of joyous memories I'll have when I know I pushed myself beyond my comfort zones.

We are all capable of more than we think we are, our brain likes to tell our body it needs to slow down when it gets the signal we're working it too hard; but that's crap - we can go farther and rung stronger and we just need to tell our bodies that this pain we are experiencing is the reward for all the hard work we've put in to get to this point. Accept the pain, embrace it, and you will run stronger than you thought you could.


Bob said...

Excellent post! You must kill the inner demon that try's to hold you back. I like what Patrick Mahoney said as well!

Teamarcia said...

Damn! You've got an inner Jerry Rice? Then my work here is done.
I have SO much to say about visualization.
Visualize your desired outcome. Coming across the finish line strong and smooth, looking at the clock in disbelief because you're light years faster than you ever imagined. What do you hear? What do you see? Smell? Call yourself nice names, fuel your self like a champ, all of it. Race and train like it's your freaking job. It will seem utterly ridiculous most of the time but trust me you will start to believe maybe just tiny crumbs of it but it will pay off in spades.
Before you toe the starting line, say out loud "I've come to win". Then unleash the beast. You know you want to.