I like to be able to smile. It’s a comforting feeling that isn’t always offered depending on the varying scenarios we face at any given time in life. So when I can, I like to smile.
This little snippet of thought can prove quite problematic for me at times when I’m running. And while completing a self-designed 50k with no other runner, no traditional start or finish line, and certainly no one to impress, I still had to convince myself to go at a pace that let me smile. There’s always a goal before any race I toe the line at. It’s rarely ever in the forefront that maybe I could be on the podium, but I do think to challenge myself with time. Maybe I can set a PR. Maybe I can pull complete negative to even splits. Maybe I can make it to the back of the front pack of runners.
These thoughts are based on adrenaline.
Those minutes before the herd of runners begins to slowly depart, when everyone is eyeing that moment of greatness that’s only a valiant effort away, my adrenaline asserts itself. But what is it worth? Is it worth potentially breaking my body as I push beyond what I should? Is it worth the emotional tatters I can find myself in as I struggle to finish a race after I see those adrenaline-based dreams dissipate into the void of defeat?
I have stared numerous times at the ground while resting, nearly broken, at an aid station because I refused to tame the adrenaline junkie obsessed with finish line glory. Covered in sweat and dirt and sipping on a soda, life seems rather obtuse as I grow weary and pissed over a goal that objectively will take me nowhere. I didn’t train hours on end to be angry and sore, weary over the thought of carrying on for another three miles, let alone ten.
There’s a great line from the TV show The West Wing: “There come’s a day in every man’s life when he realizes he’s never going to play professional baseball.”
Some of you reading this may be fantastic runners who have the capability, training, and wherewithal to push yourself from start to finish at a high octane pace. You have a predetermined goal and you are seeking a slice of glory at the top of the rankings. And that is awesome, but it’s not me. I’m not that good, nor did I ever intend to be. I’ve realized I’m never going to be a professional runner.
I like to be able to smile, and I’ve tried pushing myself to be the caliber runner that could reach that higher echelon, but I don’t enjoy it. I do enjoy the pursuit of the finish line, much like everyone else who signs up to run. I just enjoy it from a different perspective. Which is why 29.5 miles in to my 50k this past weekend (May 2nd), I said screw it and just walked the rest of the way. It was a beautiful blue sky and the breeze was hitting me just right when I was walking. It added on a nice chunk to my time, but damn did it feel good to smile as I walked up to my finish line feeling rested and happy.
There are right and wrong ways to physically run. Good form is key to many long and happy years of movement. But what you run for is completely subjective. I run to help give me a reason to smile, and when that reason starts to slip away as I grow tired, I’m just going to walk it in.