“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor…In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Running is a mental game. The hardest part about running isn’t the physical act of pounding the pavement. It’s not the stitch that has you bent to one side, or even the aches in your joints.
The hardest part about running plays out before you even lace up. It happens between the mental chatter of ‘I’m too tired’, ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I’m hungry’, ‘it’s too cold’, ‘it’s too hot’, ‘it’s raining’, and ‘I need a nap’ (which on most Sundays trumps my impetus to run). The excuses add up. To quiet the chatter, to muster the courage and to harness the discipline is more than 80 percent of the battle.
When I closed my first running chapter in 2010, it was a mental collapse that turned into a physical one. It took me 3 years to dust off my running shoes. In 2013, I signed up for a “Learn to Run” clinic at work. It turns out there is a great deal of science to the art of running. In 13 weeks they take you from barely running two-minute intervals at a time to running 50 minutes non-stop. The program demystified many running myths I had told myself, and it shattered my fear of running with a group. By the end of the 13 weeks, I completed The Vancouver Sun Run in 1:01:11. It wasn’t a great race time, but I was chuffed that running was finally a lifestyle I wanted to maintain.
If you diligently do the work, you will see the results. It’s as cliché and simple as that. It’s also why running is in equal parts frustrating and rewarding. It’s a constant reminder of the power of discipline. On most days, it takes me a good 20 minutes to find my stride. Each time I lace up, it’s a different run, some days are easy and others impossible.
It doesn’t get easier. I can’t say I love running, but I love more than just the idea of it now. I’m still a reluctant runner, and I still keep it stylish (I’ve been known to run bedazzled in bling). But your mind learns to get over it, and the legs seem to know where to pick up where they left off. The mental game is a long game. I figured it’s best to keep up with running. If nothing, I’m reminded that anytime I think “I
can’t“, I know I can.