Running is hard. That’s why I love it

The workouts are basic. Run. That’s it. Run. The duration is always about the same, around 40 minutes, of running on a treadmill. It’s a slow and cautions return to the sport after a six-week or so bout with plantar fasciitis. And wanting my injury to be acute rather than chronic, cautious suits me just fine.

But that doesn’t make it easy.

My best friends who are part of the running/triathlon world remind me if it were easy, everyone would do it. The challenge is part of the attraction, part of the actual fun of athletics. If I wanted easy, I’d re-up my cable package and return to memorizing every episode of Law & Order. But I found something I enjoy doing that connects me to myself.

See, the challenge is not just physical. It’s mental.

Yesterday’s post featured the phrase, there is no past, only present.

Yet this morning on the treadmill, when the run started to get hard, my mind wandered to the past. The internal dialogue went something like this:

Remember how well I was running before the injury? This pace right now is making me work so hard and this was my easy, breezy, barely run pace just a few months ago! How long until I get my run back? Will I ever get it back? Should I even consider registering for the Shamrock Run 8K if my time is going to be this slow? Am I just going to embarrass myself?

(Digression: When I notice my internal dialogue, when I say it out loud, or write it out, I begin to understand the thought patterns and beliefs which keep me stuck. Really, after paying attention to it for just a few days I’m beginning believe it’s amazing I can dress myself in the morning.)

As I noticed the conversation in my head, the thought from yesterday, that there is no past, only present, came back to me.

I’m not running workouts from two months ago. I’m running today. I’m running in this moment. And at this moment, I have 15 minutes left in my workout. What do I want right now? I want to keep running at a good pace that makes me work just a bit too hard. It doesn’t matter what number the treadmill flashes to indicate my average speed. What matters is how my body feels, what my mind is talking about, and where I am in the moment.

The process reminded me of a yoga class I took several years ago. The instructor encouraged us to honor where our body was at that day. Because today, everything is different. Good, bad or indifferent, if I hold on to yesterday’s performance and drag it into my present moment, I will stunt my ability to grow and change.

If I hold on to my previous running performances, I will never be able to truly “return” to that old form, because I will forever be holding on to doubts and insecurities and disregarding my present state. How can I relax, have fun or improve if I’m constantly judging myself harshly?

Running is hard. Physically and mentally. And I love it for that reason.

Fast or slow, it’s all moot because today, I am right where I am supposed to be.

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