As runners, we are handed a wonderful opportunity each and every day; the chance to put into practice in our training what we have learned through our own experience.
It is often a fiendishly difficult opportunity to grasp.
The majority of runners whom I have known train compulsively. This is to say that they often run when they’d much rather not. When they cannot train – because of injury or for some other plainly legitimate reason – they experience guilt. On other occasions, they’ll head out the door late in the evening and into pouring rain just because they need a few more miles to hit a weekly target.
None of this behavior is – on the face of it at least – rational. Actions like these are why non-runners fail to understand the runner’s world-view. Simply put, non-runners, not being caught up in the often destructive compulsive mind-set, cannot see the logic behind these apparently irrational activities. Runners, of course, can.
Although many such habits are obviously counter-productive, it could be argued that a sense of compulsion is almost a prerequisite for competitive success. How else are you going to convince yourself that running twenty miles through wind and rain on your own is a good idea? Dreams of future success, the logic of deferred gratification and other mental tricks will work to some extent, but it seems that a formless, doom-ridden, guilt-laden compulsion works best for those that want to go deep.
So, what has all this got to do with anything?
In working my way back from a long-term injury, it occurs to me that I have the chance to abandon some of my more destructive compulsions – to start afresh in some ways, if not others.Experience tells me that compulsion is a double-edged sword. Perhaps I can improve my experience of running by ditching some of the patently self-defeating behaviors which I’ve exhibited in the past.
For example, I know from my own experience that I need not train every day in order to improve my fitness. I know that I need not train when sore and tired from either racing or training. I know that I should sometimes be more focused in terms of what training sessions I do, rather than just going along with the general flow because it’s easier. I know that good sleep is great training. I know that eating well will support me in training well. I know that success is not guaranteed and that I have only limited influence over the outcomes of my training. I know that everything is temporary. I know that none of this stuff really matters.
If I can keep this knowledge with me as I run this year, I may enjoy myself a little.