Are you running for something, or running from something?
Running serves many purposes in my life. I have been confined to a treadmill during one of the hottest summers in recent history. I don’t mind training on a stationary machine every once in while, but one aspect of training I love is being outdoors. In many ways, to be out in the elements is to be free.
Lately, I have been suffering from bouts of training-induced depression. Well, it’s probably the opposite, the lack of training has made me depressed. I got sucked into the monotony of training and constructed my world with boredom and excuses. Yesterday I broke free of that world. I decided to get up early and do a series of hill sprints and loops at a local park. It was not a long workout. I didn’t train alone either. I brought my wife and a friend, Tony, met me at the park.
Tony is discovering a new athlete within himself. He’s into the obstacle racing scene, which I can attribute to his skill as a former gymnast. He’s awesome at setting goals and challenges for himself and garnering support from others from all over the continent. I’m more of a introvert in terms of my training. Anyways, I was happy he showed up to share a morning run with us.Tony will have a ton of success in his athletic and business endeavors because he doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s a driven athlete. He doesn’t ask what the sport can offer him, he simply takes it. Right on, brother.
I have set a lofty goal to run 600 miles before the Chicago Marathon in October this year. I know it’s probably too much, but that’s not why I chose the number 600. If I can run half of those miles and stay injury and burnout-free, I will have set myself up for a fun and hopefully, a fast race. In the past two days, I have run a mere ten miles, but that’s part of rebuilding myself as a runner.
I feel when an athlete fatigues mentally, the physical challenges become much harder to accomplish. I have followed a few training plans for marathons in the past, but I have never been a conventional runner. I’m basically a former collegiate soccer player who used to run miles and miles through the streets of Chicago after nights out with my friends. I’d leave the apartment drunk and come back sober. I loved setting myself free on the city streets, running down the middle of the empty streets, turning down alleyways, usually ending up on the Lakefront Path and having covered fifteen to twenty miles on an average night run.
I felt unleashed on the concrete jungle. It became my routine to run insane distances each night after training hard as a Division I soccer player. As fit as it made me physically, it made me a something altogether different mentally. I could block out distractions and free my mind on these long runs. When I started seriously running, my sister was (and still is) going through her battle with drug and alcohol addiction. I hated her for it. I found myself fighting her battles for her. If it meant confronting a drug dealer who showed up at the house, I did. If it meant flushing her heroin, cocaine, or marijuana, I did. If it meant dumping (or drinking) the alcohol in my parents’ house when I came home, I did. During this time I found my own demons. I was plagued with guilt for her addictions. I knew they were not my fault, but I watched and watched and watched her destroy herself…and that destroyed me.
There are many things that have molded me into The Spirit Runner (yep, that’s what I call myself these days). Frustrations, highs, lows, love, loss, triumph, defeat, agony, hope, adventure, illness (yep, I had cancer in 2009), addictions, challenges, competition with myself and others, the unknown. All of these translate into one word the encapsulates why I started running: LIFE.
People have often asked me if I visualize challenges or meditate. The answer is no. I am The Spirit Runner because I choose to focus on the improvement of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of myself. Running is hardly exercise for me. It’s just what I do to breathe new life into each day I choose to run. So, in my goal to have a successful Chicago Marathon this year, I am going to hack away at the mileage in a carefree way. I’m going to take the opportunities to crank out a long run if I have the time, and if I don’t, I’ll do what I can because that’s all we can really do.
In parting, know this: not every run, race, day, and experience will happen as you envision it. Relax, let your mind train your body for once. Let the unpredictable nature of life guide you on your adventures and ask yourself, “Am I running for something or running from something?”
The answer may surprise you.