Sometimes I question why I work so hard at a sport where I will never be an Olympian, national champ or even win a local 5k. As I tend to say after a bad race, “well, it’s not like anyone’s going to lose their income over this…” meaning “this is my hobby and I can choose to take it as seriously or not seriously as I wish.” But, I do take it seriously. Very seriously. Sometimes the sacrifice doesn’t seem worth it– when my frends are having their 3rd beer and I have to sit out, or go to bed early because my long run is in the morning or when putting on heels for work seems like cruel torture… I wonder why I push and strive.
This morning I woke up a little later than normal and headed to the track. I did not want to go. I was tired, had a headache and it was already way over 70 degrees at 6:30 am. But, go I did. I went through the motions of coffee, toast, shorts, shirt, shoes and told myself that I needed to at least make an honest effort at some kind of speedwork.
Normally I feel pretty junky during my warm ups but that junky feeling never went away this morning. I ran 8×400 with 400 jogs as recovery and came up short by 2 seconds/lap each time that I drove myself around the oval. I take that back– my 5th repeat was on pace, but it was the only one. I entertained ideas of calling it during every repeat and just felt miserable. I was getting frustrated and not thinking clearly when a woman who was walking around the track (the jr. college where I run has a “walking for fitness” class that meets while I do speed work. It’s kind of awkward times actually, I have to weave around them sometimes and they think I”m nuts, but whatever) tapped me on the shoulder and said, “you must really want it.” I was a little confused and responded with, “want what?” She said, “Whatever it is you’re chasing– you must really want it. No one is here taking attendance, no one would know if you quit. I’ve been watching and you don’t quit, you just seem so determined.” I responded “well, I guess I do want it… thanks!” It hit me midway through my next interval that I really do want “it.”
I’m not sure what “it” is, though. Sure, it’s a Boston-qualifying marathon time, a sub 22 5k, a few age group medals and maybe pats on the back from my friends and family, but I think “it” is deeper than that. I think “it” is the deep satisfaction of banging out a tough tempo run before my friends are awake… I think “it” is feeling the cool of the sunrise… It could be visualizing the last 800 of the marathon on my easy day… I think “it” is feeling strong and prepared for the challenges of life that are both physical and mental… I think “it” is knowing how hard I work even if I don’t always share the details of my training with those close to me… and I think “it” is having a goal to chase and experiencing the journey to get there. So yeah, I guess I do want it.
Funny that it took a woman I’ve never met out on her morning walk to teach me a lesson. I guess we never know when our words are going to spark introspection or a revelation. I’m glad I was reminded why I run in circles for no reason and push myself beyond what I think is possible. Yes, it hurts sometimes. No, I don’t always want to get out there. But is it worth it? Yeah, I’d say it sure is.