When it comes to running, one thing I have never really lacked is motivation. I have no problem getting up at an early hour, putting my gear on, doing my exercises and hitting the road. It doesn’t even matter what the weather is like; I love it all. Sun, rain, snow, sleet… It all brings in variety to runs that otherwise always follow the same pattern, the same route and timing. Usually I even see the same people when I am out running as my schedule is pretty unchangeable – there is the running man with a beard on Abbey Road whom I always pass on the same stretch, the woman with three brown labradors in Primrose Hill, the street cleaner, the parking warden.. We all follow our own routines that bring us together in some weird way. There might be another post in that… However, I digress, I was talking about motivation here.
When I am out running, I will run whatever the distance is that I have decided I will do. These days that means either 22 or 23km, depending on the day. Well, there was an occasion where a dodgy tummy made me cut a 23km run “short” at 22km but I made it up the next run… My will is made of iron, it is unshakeable and the distance is non-negotiable. When it comes to running, I am basically tough as nails.
So why, oh why, do I not have the same discipline when it comes to life outside of running? Why can’t I resist chocolate, cakes or croissants when I know they are but a fleeting pleasure? Or why can’t I stop myself buying yet another pair of jeans when I know I don’t need them and the 30% discount will come around again? Or when I make other decisions about my personal life, I just don’t have the same resolve to follow through as I do when I am running. WHY?
When I started running, my mind would constantly be telling me to stop. It would be nagging at me about the insanity of putting myself through this torture. About how it was going to kill me, about the stitch on my side, how everything hurt and just basically how insane and inane running was. “Just walk, you will feel so much better” it would say. But I kept on running. And running, and running. And over time, my mind has learnt that there really is no point. Now it’s my biggest ally. There are various games I play with the distance (“you’ve done a 5th, a quarter.. You’re halfway!” “The first 10km is just the foundation, now you build the house”) when I need distraction but most of the time my mind just wanders. I think about life; people in it, those not in it anymore. I think about work, the kids, about whether I should cut my hair. Anything but stopping. And when my legs want to take the turn home, my mind distracts them until the turn has passed and I am onto another distance-adding loop.
It feels a bit like a split personality; the running me is aggressive, tough and decisive. She is confident, arrogant and strong. But as soon as the running shoes come off, so does that identity. I almost feel like I know who I am when I am running but I lose my sense of self when I am not. The “running me” isn’t about being a woman, a mother or a wife. She is just that – a runner. One of many. As a runner I know what I can do, how far I can push myself and what happens when I push too far. It is much harder to figure your limits out in “the real world”. “How far can you go?” is a much more complicated question when it’s not running-related. And maybe that is the next lesson; taking that willpower from running and applying that to the “suited and booted” me. Not just the one clad in Nike. Or maybe it is not about willpower at all. Maybe it is about passion. Maybe I am willing to give running my all because it gives me so much back.
After all; it is not just “loving” something, but being “in love” that makes you willing to give it your all, willing to make sacrifices… Now, how can I apply this to resisting that Cadburys Jelly Popping Candy chocolate…
*) Please let me know if you have any tips!