Strength doesn’t lie in numbers

There are many reasons why I like to run in the mornings. There is something energizing about sunrise. There is something breathtaking about being out before the world wakes up. There is the peskiness of my schedule which usually means first thing in the morning is the only time I have available. And there is the old notion of trickery. If I start my workout before my mind is fully engaged, I decrease the chances that I will talk myself out of my run by a factor of 10.

And so Saturday morning, I got up, ate breakfast, got dressed and was out the door just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. After I pulled into the parking lot at Chestnut Ridge Park it was only a matter of minutes before I was jogging off on my route. The less time I give myself to make up stories as to why this could go poorly, the better.

My long run was scheduled for 10-12 miles at my easy pace, but something about my training lately made me want to run long in the hills. It had been some time since I really ran a hilly route and even longer since I ran the 10-mile loop at Chestnut Ridge Park. But I wanted the challenge and instead of analyzing it, I just went with my gut. And in order to keep my mind in line, I left my Garmin at home. That’s right. No Garmin. I only wore my handy-dandy Timex Ironman watch so I could time my nutrition breaks. Otherwise, I had no idea of how fast I was running or if I was “hitting” my easy pace.

And something inside me was set free.

I ran easy and confident and strong. I didn’t charge the hills, just kept moving solidly up them. I didn’t kill the downhills, just let gravity help me out a little bit. I didn’t furiously try to catchup on the relatively flat portions, just ran steady and controlled. I could have run faster and harder, as a matter of fact, but that wasn’t my workout. I will never reach my goal by taking someone else’s road or by comparing my journey to theirs.

The longer the run went, the stronger I felt. The hills were difficult, but not as imposing as part of me had feared. As I climbed Ward Road to what feels like the top of the world, I thought of the line from the song “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music:

Strength doesn’t like in numbers.
Strength doesn’t like in wealth.
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumber.

(And yes, I did just quote The Sound of Music there. Deal with it.) Too often I get caught up in the metrics, in measuring success by numbers. But toughness is a quality that you can’t measure. Neither is authenticity. How do you know when you’re staying true to yourself? How do you know when you’re making progress? How do you know when you’re winning the battle with the negative committee that meets in your head? I suspect it feels like this — confidently moving along, oblivious to the numbers and the chatter of the outside world.


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