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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chasing or Chased

What are you running from?

When many people talk about their running prowess (or lack thereof), they tend to put it in terms of being chased. They say things like, "I ran like someone was coming at me with a knife" or "I couldn't run a mile if my life depended on it." In the overwhelming majority of these cases, I imagine that the person in question probably has no idea what it means to actually be fueled by mortal fear, but it's interesting that this is most often the chosen analogy for running. For many (if not most) people, running only means getting away from something worse than running.

For me, I try to look at it the other way around. When I'm out in the unbelievable heat of this summer, I think about the goal toward which I'm running. I'm the chaser, not the chased. And now that I think about it, I wonder which idea is actually more motivational. Is it better to need running, or to choose it?

Most of us, I think, would prefer to choose all the aspects of our lives. We want to have a job that we love and that gets us out of bed joyfully every morning. We seek out a spouse that makes us happy and that shares our values and goals. We select our hobbies based on the things that make us feel good about ourselves and put us into positive frames of mind. If life were entirely based on doing the things we choose, it's reasonable to assume that pretty much everyone would be happy.

And yet, when I'm in the throes of a 12-mile run up a long, extended hill, when it's 83 degrees at 6:00 in the morning, it's hard to remind myself that this is something I chose. At this point, it seems like being forced to run would be a better choice. I've run past several training groups the last few weeks, and while all of those people choose to be there, I imagine that there is a heightened sense of accountability that goes with joining such a program. You've paid to be a part of something, and your coach expects you to arrive at your session on time and to give it your all, regardless of how you're feeling. In practice, you have to run, or the coach will chase you down.

I've meandered through any number of hobbies and professions in my life, and I haven't stayed with any of them for an extended period of time. When I get to the point at which an activity starts to get routine or difficult, I often grow restless and start looking for what's next. I worry that I've hit that point with running. And it's time to break through.

How do I do that? By selecting the next goal. And the next one. And the next one. And then chasing them down. I must constantly reach for what's next.

And what's next is a four mile run.

Monday's Run:
83 Degrees / Clear
12.4 Miles
1 Hour, 36 Minutes, 39 Seconds

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