The Indomitable Spirit of a Runner

I am compelled to put my thoughts down on “paper”. It has been many years since I have felt compelled to write. I have previously posted that my goal for this year is to run the Portland Marathon. I’m doing it. I have registered. And yesterday, I was scared. Today, I am determined.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!” -Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

One thing that I know to be true is that I previously hated running. To me, running was something that my crazy parents did. They would disappear for hours and come back sweaty, and focused, with crazy amounts of energy they expected me to have the same of.

I rejected running for many years because it was not something I ever wanted to do. I was a basketball player, softball player, and volleyball player. All team sports requiring intense and fast action. Short bursts of all out performance resulting in an jubilant win (or humbling loss).

After learning how to run, practicing long distances, conquering my fears, I too, am a runner.

I don’t know if you have anyone in your life that runs: whether it is a family member or a friend. If you do: you may think they are crazy, dedicated, insane, focused, or what have you. If you do not have anyone that you care for that is a runner, well, let me tell you a thing or two about runners.

For a marathon training plan that lasts 23 weeks I will need to put in over 100 hours in training. This is running two days a week and lifting weights three days a week. 100 + hours. On the road. Alone. My feet hitting the pavement. My breathing creating a pattern. My thoughts of defeat. The glory of overcoming my thoughts of defeat. All of it, is HARD. It is hard WORK. Yes, it is work. Why would anyone do this to themselves? Why am I doing this? Because running simulates real world experiences that I struggle with. Image

Say what? Yes, running simulates real world experiences that I struggle with. I experience social anxiety. I need to plan things in order to be comfortable with them. I experience anxiety in new situations. Running forces me to be equally impulsive and to equally value planning. Running puts me on the road for a set amount of time where I am faced with all the fear and anxiety. Running is the first activity that has ever challenged my intelligence along with fostering my tenacity. Yes, running is an intelligent activity. Not that you have to be smart to do it. Quite the contrary, you have to consciously (and actively) engage your frontal lobe (high level thinking) to overcome the cease and desist primal brain. The primal brain is what signals my body that I am done! Time to stop! Get off the road and GO HOME NOW! Digging deep within myself I pull upon reserves that challenges my primal brain. “Just one more mile.” “Keep digging in.” “Come on, you can do this!” “This pain you are feeling is nothing compared to the emotional pain of your past.” “Keep on keeping on.” “Just past the next sign.” “Just around the next corner, now past that mailbox.” I know that I won’t stop but my primal brain doesn’t. I get to actively practice the skills I need in order to overcome my daily struggles. Over a 100 hours of practice, fine tuning my coping abilities, humbling myself to not quite getting the time I wanted, submitting to the pain in order to breathe through it, these have all increased my quality of life over the last year. Image

And, I owe it to running.

Yesterday, when I heard of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I was stunned. I was in disbelief that someone would do such a terrible thing. I was angry. Possibly that is what you felt as well. Today, I am reflecting on the 1972 Summer Olympics. This was a time in history when running was beginning to change. Steve Prefontaine was making running a household name, he was changing the face of athletes, and making a name for Oregon. Frank Shorter made history. He was the first American to win the Marathon event in 64 years. Things were happening, and running was becoming the sport to watch. September 5, 1972 was the day the Munich Massacre happened. On September 5th, 1972 athletes throughout the world mourned. The loss of athletes, coaches, and young men rocked the nation. Everyone was watching. Everyone was asking why. Everyone saw evil in action. Everyone felt the loss in the face of tradition. Just like April 15th, 2013.

Athletes train, and they push. They rise above obstacles. They overcome limitations. They dedicate themselves to their sport. I read a headline that said the event in Boston would change running forever. I challenge that! No. It won’t change running. Runners, wrestlers, coaches, athletes, and tv viewers have been here before. We have overcome once. We can overcome again.

We will each put in the hours required to conquer our sport. Just as you will put in the hours to support those you love who dedicate themselves to something. I will begin my training without fear of an evil act. For, in my practice of running, I will have already overcome anything worse. I will run the Portland Marathon.

I will hear Frank Shorter‘s voice urging me on, “run hard all the way, and make it hurt, and make it honest to be a worthy answer to the terrorist atrocities of a few days past.” 41 years after he spoke these words they still ring true.

Athletes: families: citizens, let us rise up and demonstrate the Indomitable Spirit of a Runner.