Big Magic, the Olympics and runner’s malaise

When I was setting up my 2016 race schedule, I asked my good friend Nate if he thought I could do two marathons in one calendar year. Yes, he said. Only you can’t complain. I am now 75 days out from Marathon No. 2 of the year and DAMN do I want to complain.

I reached a point of runner’s malaise. I’m sure some of it had to do with the heat and humidity that has parked itself over Western New York this summer. My runs have been slow and difficult. I’ve started to wonder if I picked the right training plan. I’m still about $1,200 short of my fundraising goal for Carolyn’s House. My old gremlin frenemy, Doubt, has been starting to gain some credibility in my head.

Then a few things happened.

First, I began listening to the podcast Magic Lessons from author Elizabeth Gilbert. It continues the conversation that began with her book Big Magic and while the topic is creativity, the lessons can be applied to a variety of areas of your life. So while helping me with my creative projects, it’s also inspiring me with my athletic endeavors. Lovingly but firmly she and her guests remind me, in essence, to shut up and do the work. Because I do love the work. Gems from the podcast include:

“The only way to learn courage is to be afraid of something and do it anyway,” photographer Brandon Stanton.


“I’m not sure I even believe in talent but I do believe in persistence,” comedian, actor, author Michael Ian Black.

What matters, time and again, is the doing not the result. In my current block of training, I’ve moved away from pace-based runs to heart rate-based runs. Will it make a difference? Will it work? Will I be able to run a good time at the Niagara Falls International Marathon? Who knows. But this different metric has made running in the heat bearable and I’m gonna go ahead and feel good about that.

The second thing that happened is that my malaise hit during the Olympics. How fortunate! Because no matter how cynical you may be about the current state of international sport, there is no way to watch the Olympics and not be inspired. You can’t half-ass anything when you’re watching the Olympics. Look at these amazing athletes who are giving their absolute best. They are laying it all on the line. And while I won’t be winning an Olympic medal anytime soon, I  can bring my best self to today. It may not be as good as it was yesterday. I may be better next week. But what’s the best I can bring to this moment right now? That’s where I start. And I’ll start from that same spot again tomorrow. Because the BIG FINISH only comes through showing up every day to do the work, whether you’re an artist, writer or athlete.

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