Early mornings, later-than-I’d-like evenings, crazy fast races, and mind-numbingly long, hot runs all comprise an effort I wouldn’t have thought possible just a few years ago. Not every mile was glorious. It hasn’t always been fun, especially when those miles were picked up over snow and ice, into an icy cold wind. Conversely, many of my 1,000 miles were run into an oppressive, humid heat.
Most of my runs, though, were outstanding – and when completed, I was grateful for even the tough ones. Perhaps especially the tough ones.
I can thank training for a spring ultramarathon for racking up quite a few miles. In training for Gnaw Bone, I ran my first (second and third) 100+-mile month. I also ran the entire winter, which was another new sensation. In previous years, I basically went into hibernation after my fall marathon, and gratefully didn’t step foot outside while there was snow or ice on the ground. This winter was a little different – though I did avoid some of the more inclement days by running many miles on the treadmill. Not a fan of that.
When I started writing this, I intended to do short highlights of my year of running so far (which is nowhere near over, by the way. 1,000 miles apparently is just the beginning). But as I started looking back through my blog, there really is only one run that stands out. Not because of the run, but really more for what it represents to me. So I’ma talk about that instead.
Perception of potential
I look back on Gnaw Bone with great pride, to be honest. It’s a great accomplishment, and I get to join a pretty cool group of people when I say “I’m an ultrarunner.”
What I recall most fondly from the Gnaw Bone experience isn’t even the run itself – rather, it’s the training. I know I’m a different person today – not because I ran an ultramarathon, but because I trained for one. Training required me to test myself and push my body much further than I had ever done. The dark times, both literal and figurative, regularly brought me to a place where the daily push simply had to mean more than it did in that moment. When the going got tough, I told myself so many times “This is where you build.” Knowing that it was not just my muscles I was working on, but my determination, endurance, and character.
I asked myself “What are you doing? Do you realize what you’re getting into with this?” I thought my hubris was leading me in a direction that would ultimately end in failure. But I didn’t give up. I dug deeper and learned more about my own potential.
“I’m not a runner; I’m not an athlete; I’m not at that level.”
On May 9, when I crossed the finish line to the cheers of my wife and my friends, I broke through a layer of deep-seated self-doubt that I had built up over years of giving in to fear of failure. Before, at races I would look at other runners – old, young, thin, fast – and unfairly compare myself against them. I still do that to a certain extent; it’s a hard habit to break. But, I now look at these other runners with a new perspective. When I start to feel down and doubt myself when compared to someone faster, I remind myself that I don’t know that runner’s past, goals, or training. Celebrate the run, celebrate today. Stand up straight and run strong.