If you are wondering to yourself, “Hmm, Self, why is it Part Two?”, I would like to invite you to take this question to the next level and seek out to read “On Why I love Running Part 1”, because I genuinely believe it will answer your question.
Ah, the sweet beauty of empowerment.
But for a brief recap of “On Why I love Running: Part 1”: Essentially, I expound upon the factors that introduced me to competitive running (I believe this is what it can be called?) and then I explain how I got burnt out on running, and it became a chore. This Part 2 is my reintroduction to the art of running with a new passion and a new perspective.
I am fascinated with the mind. If I’m being honest with you, I’m particularly fascinated with my mind. I seek to understand why it operates the way it does and I enjoy putting pressure on these subconscious proceedings. One of the most stress-relieving activities is simple observation; why does that thought pop up when I encounter this? Do I have to think that way? What would happen if I purposefully directed my thoughts different? Could I establish change in this way?
This interest in the mind serves a runner well, primarily because long distance running is roughly made up of (and just an estimate, here) 100000000% mental toughness and 3% physical exertion.
Since beginning my freshman year of college, I have seized every opportunity I can to test my mental capacity. I have seen too much benefit reaped from these opportunities to pass them up. So that’s a little background on where I started; i.e., with a degree (however minute and underdeveloped) of mental toughness.
Alright, to business.
October 18th, 2015
My mother—a true Adventure Queen of the Nile—found a young, adventure couple who were looking for joiners on a two-day biking exploration. Kansas had recently completed a “Rails to Trails” project which consists of turning old railway track into a trail for bikers, runners, and overall nature partakers. The young couple–we’ll call them Stephan and Liz for anonymity’s sake—wanted to drop a car off at one end of the trail, drive to the other end, bike all day Saturday, camp Saturday night, and then bike all day Sunday. In order to fulfill the “other car” requirement, my mother and I joined.
Stephan and Liz are some of the coolest people. They both obtained biology degrees from Notre Dame and have spent many-a summer in Alaska and Canada doing field research. They are both vegans and extreme-adventurers. Example: Stephan’s class got out early one day on Friday. What did he do? Found an good deal on a flight to Costa Rica, put a pair of extra underwear and a CLIF bar in a backpack, and spent the weekend solo-hiking through Costa Rica. The pair of them hitchhiked to California and couch-surfed on weekend, the only money being spent on a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter. These two are the real deal.
Liz is a yoga instructor, and most importantly, a half-marathoner.
An all-day-two-day biking adventure is a really grand opportunity to get to know someone really well, in case you were wondering (date suggestion?). So I got the opportunity to really meet Liz and Stephan on a pretty deep level. Being very interested in yoga, travel, and veganism, I instantly respected the duo and wanted to be very much like them.
So Liz started telling me about running, and specifically half-marathons.
She told me how blissful the distance can be. Races shorter than a half-marathon—1 mile, 5k, 10k—are all about speed and sustainability. You run these races to prove to other people that you are faster than them, essentially.
But a half-marathon, she said, is the beginning of the distances that you run for purely yourself. You compete against your own capacity, physical and mental. It’s rooted in intrinsic motivation.
And if you read my other blog posts, you know how the phrase “intrinisic motivation” really makes me perk up.
I had never heard anyone talk about running this way. I always assumed that people ran because they were either a). like me, and part of a running team that they felt pressured to be on or b). trying to lose weight.
But the way that Liz talked about running…the beauty in the opportunity to be so raw in movement and to enter a different part of the mind. To feel what it’s like to be in a different headspace. The capacity to learn from the movement. To feel the instinct. To feel improvement, not for anyone else’s benefit but yourself. And then to take this sense of completeness and be able to meet the needs of other’s much more effectively once your own needs are met.
Pretty powerful stuff, yeah?
I didn’t make any decisions immediately, but rather reflected upon that perspective and passion and let it ruminate up in my noggin for a while.
Now fast forward a tad.
November 8, 2015
My father—an excellent endurance cyclist, truly excellent—and I did the Emporia Veteran’s Day Duathalon, a race featuring a 5k run followed by a 40 mile gravel bike ride, all to be completed in under 4 hours.
It was so blissfully enjoyable. I can’t stress it enough, I love competing. I love race day, all the feels, all the excitement, all the cortisol. The fight-or-flight just before the start. And I especially love endurance competitions. Because it doesn’t matter who is faster than you, it only matters that you get the job done. It’s pure Josie vs. Mind, my absolute favorite.
I especially enjoyed the run, even though it was not the endurance portion of the race. I enjoyed this feeling of raw instinct, of an almost separation from society. When I run, I don’t feel like I’m an American. This might be strange, but I don’t feel like I’m part of anything other than humanity. I feel connected on such a broad level.
The race went well, I finished in the top-whatever and despite having a less-than extravagant bike to pedal through the gravel, I finished comfortably under 4 hours.
As soon as I was done, three things immediately crossed my mind:
- I wonder what would be the fastest way to get ahold of some peanut butter?
- I’m pretty sure the man who finished first is significantly more than twice my age and perhaps 100 pounds heavier.
- When can I race again?
I was hooked.
As much as I loved cycling, it was the running portion that really gripped my attention, as well as the fully-ruminated thoughts upon Liz and I’s conversation on running. So I decided to sign up for a half-marathon.
February 6th, 2016
Olathe Chocolate Rush Half-Marathon. What better to showcase my half-marathoning debut than with a race devoted to chocolate? It was a good choice. The timing allowed me 12 weeks of training, and I stuck very devotedly—and very excitedly—to a Hal Hidgeon intermediate 12-week training plan.
They tell you that for your first half-marathon, you should just run to finish, not even worry about time. I mean, this really is some pretty solid advice.
But I’m too competitive to adhere to it, honestly. Why just run to finish when I could run to achieve something more? It wasn’t enough for me just to have the goal of finishing. My ultimate goal was to run sub 2:00, which would mean averaging ~9:00 mile pace.
I ran 1:38, maintaining an average of 7:34/mile.
Now, my training up til then had not been particularly speed focused. I was not running intervals at “race pace”, I was not incorporating sprints and surges. I don’t even think I had run a 5 mile training run at 7:34.
This just proved to me that we are so much more capable than we think.
“When your brain says you are done, you’re only 40% done.”
David Goggins, retired Navy SEAL
It’s true, it’s so true. If you compete long enough against your mental fatigue, you can find so much more.
People advised me to “start small, with a 5k race building up”
People advised me to “really pace yourself”
People advised me to “make sure you run with water and food, that’s a long distance!”
People advised me to “take one day off per mile you raced in order to recuperate fully”.
I don’t believe that running is something you have to play safe.
I believe it’s wise to observe your body and respect limitations, such as gradual increase in mileage per week. It’s important to remember that your body needs fuel and proper nutrition. It’s important to allow time for your body to recover, physically.
But what do you learn by playing it safe?
In no area of our lives do we become stronger by “playing it safe”. Running isn’t any different. I welcome the challenge, the opportunity to see what I’m made of, to expand my mental fatigue, to strengthen my mental capacity.
Tomorrow morning I’ll run my second half-marathon. I’m excited to see what areas I have improved in (hopefully form, I’ve been stressing that hard in training) and what areas still need work.
Stay tuned for Part 3! I will disclose the compilation of resources that have aided my love for running, what I love to listen to during a good run, as well as how I fuel during long runs and my strategies for fast and effective recovery.
Comment below on the ways that running (or other disciplines) has had an impact in your life, or what it fulfills in you. As much as I love to share, I am more so infinitely curious!
Peace & Blessings,