I think by now we know each other well enough that I can spare the formalities and cut right to the chase. You have grown as a runner, but I don’t mean that you’ve gotten faster. I won’t lie to you about such things (or anything, anymore). Despite your speed lagging behind last year’s, you can still legitimately claim improvement. No, I’m not referring to the PR you ran in a 4-mile race earlier this summer (low-hanging fruit). What I’m talking about when I’m talking about your running is your attitude towards your sport, and your ability to recognize the difference between forcing an issue and persistence and determination.
Remember in 2009 when you stubbornly trained through the winter despite never quite feeling 100%, and never really enjoying the training? Oh yeah, you got injured, had to defer your marathon a year, and then slipped into a depression that lasted four months. Sure, you exhibited persistence and determination in the face of inhospitable weather and what I’ll call a Qi Depletion (blame that hippy-dippy mumbo jumbo on the acupuncturists). But you also were pigheaded, proud, and living in denial about what your body was capable of accomplishing that year.
Remember in 2010 when less than seven days after racing the London Marathon you embarked on a running streak of at least 1 mile a day for 30 days? Oh yeah, you called it quits after four weeks, the streak having thoroughly exhausted you and leeched all the fun out of running. Once again, persistence and determination were clearly on display, as was resourcefulness (how did you manage to fit in a run every single flipping day?). But oops, your blind insistence to push the agenda despite warning signs once again caused problems and a mandatory cessation of training for a while.
Remember in 2011 when you were so emotionally depleted from the great upheaval in your life, that you could barely make it out to run more than twice a week? Remember how you felt like you were simultaneously bouncing off the walls and pegged to the floor by gravity? Remember how one run along a snowy trail (you were trying to be accomodating to your friend) aggravated Betty so much that you nursed your adductor brevis for seven months?
Sometimes our memories turn around to face us and give us the double Fingers, don’t they? Not accepting the truth is no different than lying to yourself (the slang term for that is denial). Lying! How often do we lie to others not to hurt their feelings? (Your hair looks great! Love your dress! I heard every word you said!) Well, I have also done a lot of lying to myself, so as not to hurt my own feelings. There have been more moments than I care to remember (fear of the double Fingers) in which I have carried on in denial about my physical preparedness. It seemed less painful to avoid the disappointment that accompanies scaling back on mileage, deferring race goals, and acknowledging the way my body has let me down. Remember when you were benched, and you’d watch others run by and feel like they’d stolen your boyfriend? Well those days are over TK, because now you know something that makes no sense, but is true: EVEN WHEN YOU ARE NOT RUNNING, YOU ARE A RUNNER.
Essentially, TK, your improvement as a runner has to do with surrender. You know that your running is not in your hands. Running is a gift that is presented to you over and over until you accumulate training, the same way a race is a step you take over and over until you accumulate a PR. Running is something you do on God’s time. You mocked Ryan Hall and the way he brought God into his running, but now you understand–it is only through the grace of the universe that you are here to move forward at a clip. And not only that, but you don’t run for yourself. Your running is a way to be of service to others. Perhaps you inspire others to take on their athletic dreams, or to dare to attempt what was previously thought impossible. Perhaps you write about your running in a way that helps new runners find a workout schedule, or understand how to prepare for race day. Perhaps by inviting others to run with you, you give them a chance to talk through their troubles and find an easier way forward. Ryan–your running has been a service to me: by bearing witness to your graceful form and Amerian Records, I attempt to approach my finest effort as a runner the way you have. Our finest effort–that is what God asks of us, though She is happy with an honest effort, too.
Don’t buck at the God talk. It’s just another way of saying “inexplicable,” “luck” or “beauty” and you know it. You don’t need to wear that cynicsm, it is not the most flattering dress on you after all.
TK, you precious thing. Tell them, go on. You’re not racing a fall marathon, are you? More momentous: you’re STILL A RUNNER! And also: you grieved your marathon plans and aspirations for 24 hours before you realized they haven’t died, just stepped aside to let other others claim your attention. You just improved your recovery time from four months to 24 hours. And there you have it, the crux of your improvement as a runner is surrender. Ultimately, this will serve you better than additional speed, since speed is like physical beauty (fleeting, subjective, and an illusion).
You are a treasure! Run when you can. Write when you feel inspired. I’m here for you to remind you that you are still a runner whenever you need it (the reminder, or the running).
Run strong and beautiful,