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.