Cheat Day

“In the continuing dialogue between me, the runner, and my body, I become more and more health-minded. I become eager for more training, more discipline, more self-control, seeking inside of me the person George Leonard called the ultimate athlete. All the while knowing, as Leonard suggests, that I’m playing the ultimate game, which is life.

And in life, you remember, it is not how long you lived, but how you played the game” – Dr. George Sheehan.

I’ve gotten way behind on my blog reading lately. And while trying to catch up over the last couple of days I saw that my blogging buddy Kathryn gave herself a training cheat day on Friday. A training cheat day is a little different than a diet cheat day. On a diet cheat day, people eat shit that they know they shouldn’t and risk sabotaging their progress. On a training cheat day, a runner either skips a run or, as in Kathryn’s case, they add a workout.

Skipping a run can slow progress, but probably isn’t that big of a deal as long as it’s not the week’s long run and it doesn’t become a habit. It’s more like adding a valuable rest day than stealing a training day. Adding a workout on the other hand risks overtraining and increases the possibility of injury. It’s in effect, stealing a valuable rest day from your training plan; a plan that would probably work a whole lot better if we could only follow the damn thing.

But sometimes, the weather is just right. And the drive is there. And the time is there. Sometimes the run is just a pushy bastard that won’t be easily quieted.

Unfortunately, now my friend is nursing a sore foot and is a little panicked that she may have injured herself over the weekend. That really sucks and I truly feel bad for her. At the same time, I’d love to give her shit too because she knows better. But I find myself “tweaking” my own plan a little bit here and there. And I’m tempted all the time to go run on my non-run days. So, I understand. Sometimes you have to log some “just for me” miles. And because I’m confident that she’ll be okay, I’m still glad she got those miles in on Friday.

“So when you see a jogger out on the roads, you can never be quite sure what is going on in his or her head. Whether the reason for running is reasoned and practical and altogether a matter of just getting it done. Or, on the other hand, whether this childlike foolishness is the focal center of the runner’s day. And running is the answer to the crucial question: How do you want to live the rest of your life?” – Dr. George Sheehan

I share all of this because I really liked her carefree blog about her cheat day. In it she pondered the great question: Why do I run? Now, I don’t know Kathryn that well, but I read her blog regularly and have had the pleasure to run with her. And I think I know the answer. She runs because she’s a runner.

There are some people who are runners because they run. They’re the people that don’t get the buzz, but still have the discipline. The people that force themselves out the door or onto the dreadmill a few times a week because they want to lose a few pounds, or the people that manage to push themselves through longer training cycles because they want to meet some race challenge. So they run. And because they run, they are runners.

But then there are people like me, and I believe like Kathryn, who run because we’re runners. Sure we might be a little thinner, but that’s more of a side effect than the actual goal. And I can’t speak for K, but not at all why I started. The running IS the buzz. It IS the point. Runners do it because it takes us somewhere in ourselves and lets us see something in there that no one else can see. We do it because finding that place in there changes how we see so much of the outside world too. We do it because it’s constant self discovery and outside adventure all at the same time. We run because it feels true to the nature of ourselves. We do it because it’s what we do. We are runners, and runners run…

…Sometimes even on days that we’re not supposed to.

I hope I’m not speaking out of school concerning Kathryn’s motivations. But I know why I run. I’m supposed to.

Doubting ThatGuy: A Run I Needed

“There are those of us who are always about to live. We are waiting until things change, until there is more time, until we are less tired, until we get a promotion, until we settle down / until, until, until. It always seems as if there is some major event that must occur in our lives before we begin living.” – George Sheehan

This week I experienced true doubt in my path for the very first time. I considered the possibility that I may not be moving in the right direction, or that I might be letting my imagination get away from me. I don’t think I’ve ever been called a “dreamer.” But for a brief moment this week, I felt like one. I felt like maybe I should resign myself to certain perceived realities whether I believe them correct or concrete; that maybe I should accept simple comforts instead of seeking true satisfaction; maybe I should settle for less. I briefly wondered if I even deserve many of the things I believe to be possible.

Then I went for a run; a very peaceful run at Norfolk Botanical Gardens; a run I needed.

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” – George Sheehan

I’ve said it so many times. And I do understand how tiresome it must be to read it over and over again. But running is the greatest thing I have ever done for myself. It is also the most selfish thing I do. I’ve mentioned to the point of nausea the therapeutic and meditative qualities I experience when I run. But I don’t only seek the mental healing of it. I’m not always a fucking mess looking for a cure. I don’t only enjoy it because I’m such a flawed and scattered creature that I can’t live without my “medicine.”

I do genuinely love doing it. And from the very first day, running also provided a new clarity of perspective; a glance into areas of myself that I had never seen before and that I sometimes still can’t see unless I’m pounding it out on the road. Without getting out there and peeking through those cracks, I might forget all of the potential I see in myself. I don’t want to forget. I can’t afford to.

The best me I can possibly be is still sometimes a very distant vision. I don’t mean that I live under a constant weight of self doubt. I really don’t. I simply see a better me that is well within the realm of possibility and I want to be that person so fucking bad that it drives me mad when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and wasting my limited time not pursuing that existence.

Sometimes I’m seriously tempted to just lace up my shoes and run that way until I get tired, and then maybe that way over there for a while and maybe way over there the next day. At work, I’ll catch myself walking to go speak to a coworker and on the way to their office have to stop myself from running. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m not sure I’d be able to stop. I’m so ready to fly. I’m just looking for my wings.

“There’s a point in every learning process where we are so sure we see everything we can, we make fallible assumptions about our situations”Justin Dohrmann (If you’re not reading his blog, you should. Click his name. Seriously)

Being more conscious of oneself is being aware of both the positive and the negative. I am continually adjusting to the unfamiliar feeling of true confidence and the belief that I can conquer any challenge. And I am also more affected by the depth of those holes in my life where something is clearly missing. These things can often conflict with each other. And I also have to realize that being in better sync with myself does not automatically mean that finding total peace will be easy. I still live in a world full of doubt and doubters. Every day is new and focusing on my own experience of each one is crucial.

It is almost a testament to (and maybe the pitfalls of) a more positive general attitude that I am able to forget that sometimes the things that should happen don’t and things that seem totally wrong often still do. I guess in a weird way, that’s progress…right? I feel so much more in tune with the natural way that I forget that much of the world actively rebels against it.

In recent weeks I’ve rebelled against it myself and often felt overwhelmed as I’ve stretched myself thin trying to focus on too many things at one time, and totally distracting myself from the current moment. I’d stopped concentrating on each step of my journey and instead started lazily staring too long into the horizon, leaving myself much more susceptible to the potential lure and distraction of mirages. Allowing myself to get too excited running towards imaginary oases only caused me to forget my form, run sloppy, and become exhausted. And ultimately I forgot that all of the confidence and determination in the world will never be enough to get me to something that doesn’t exist.

I need to stay focused on the path more. Sure, a quick glance up at a particular goal won’t kill me and can often provide motivation. But the next step is the only one I can reach from here, and much more worthy of my attention right now.

“When you’re staring at something you can’t really see it. But you have to look away to look back.” – Chris Jaeb

Because of the above mentioned overwhelming feeling, I took a much needed break this week. I called it my “Mid-Week Mental Health Weekend.” I’d already scheduled two days off from work. I really needed that time off and was excited about it. So when my original plans fell through, I took those days off anyway. And I dedicated myself to being totally relaxed and unencumbered my distractions on the horizon. I essentially closed my eyes for two days.

I still ran of course, and went to the gym because they are maybe the only things that consistently relieve stress instead of adding to it. But other than that, I held myself to no schedule. I sat at the beach with a friend for five hours Wednesday afternoon relaxing in the water, watching sand crabs do what they do, and achieving a pretty solid sunburn. Thursday, I went for a relaxing morning run and a long afternoon workout before going to bed early. It felt good.

I had ideas for my blog; observations I thought I could share; anecdotes about whatever, but I couldn’t make myself sit down to write. And I refused force it. I considered letting the blog go until next week’s J.O.G.T. entry. And honestly, there have been a few different times over the last couple of weeks when I debated suspending my blog altogether.

And then I went for a run this morning; a really great run; a run I needed.

“If this is what you want to do, as ludicrous or as crazy or as farfetched as it may sound. Set that goal. Nurture it and be protective of it. But you have to be careful about who you tell it to.” – Rich Roll

This week, I allowed myself a moment of pause in which to reflect on the things I want to do, whether or not I’m being honest with myself about my ambitions, and whether or not I deserve my shot at some of the things I want.

And after that pause, I decided that “deserve” has got nothing to do with it. I owe it to myself to give everything my very best shot. I don’t expect to succeed at all the things I want in the world. But I should certainly continue striving toward them. There is absolutely no consolation prize in lazily accepting unsatisfying aspects of life just because change might be difficult.

Just between you and me, the idea of going back to school even crossed my mind this week for the first time in forever. It crossed quickly and ran off into the woods before I could get a good look at it. But a year ago, just that thought would’ve been as fantastically absurd as running a marathon. I’ll be running my first 26.2 in 16 weeks.

And this blog isn’t going anywhere anytime soon either. The release it provides is way too important to me. I said I was selfish, right?

Happy Saturday