I think, therefore I am.
I think about running, therefore I am a runner.
If you’ve thought about the word “running” beyond its primitive role of “running away from something,” you are, indeed, a runner. Your own objective for being a runner is insignificant, for you decidedly chose running over all the other -ings.
For the travel-on-foot type, what makes running more than just any other old verb?
It is not a comfortable endeavor, at least in the true sense of the word. Sure, one day’s mileage can feel more comfortable than another’s, but running is by no means a cozy evening by the fireplace, warm mug of herbal tea in hand. If it is not comfort we seek, then some other form of pleasure must be at stake. Is it the satisfaction of overcoming a competitor at the finish line? Is it the sinewy, toned reflection in the mirror, the stellar vital signs? Is it the “feeling of euphoria coupled with reduced anxiety and a lessened ability to feel pain,” more commonly known as runner’s high?
Regardless, the thread that weaves us all, whether one runs a 40-minute or a 20-minute 5k, is the complex understanding of comfort--the foresight to know that what is uncomfortable in one context is actually comfortable in another, the fortitude to persevere through discomfort in order to enhance one’s comfort thereafter.
No matter the duration of time between the start and finish line, every runner fights the same battles. Your relative success depends on your courage, resolve, and strength of character--in simple terms, your ability to grit it out. How do you improve your ability to grit it out? You practice being gritty. How do you become gritty? You tell yourself things.
On a recent weekday, I headed over to the track at 6:00am to complete a 8x600m speed-endurance workout. While packing for work the night before, I concocted a half dozen different ways to perceive the workout to make it seem easier in my mind. Put simply, I told myself things.
It’s just running fast for two minutes, then getting a break!
If I think about it as 2 sets of 4, or 4 sets of 2, it’s basically not even a workout!
It’s really just an easy run with some spurts of faster running!
I’ll finish before I would’ve normally woken up--not even a dent in my day!
I ate extra dessert last night--I have so much energy to spare!
In the grand scheme, I won’t even remember this workout!
Whimsical in nature, the things I told myself were somewhat therapeutic; they masked the things I could have told myself that would have brought worry instead of relief.
Upon my arrival, I threw my hair into a high bun, tightened my shoelaces, and promptly began my warm up jog. Within minutes, I knew it was going to be a “grit it out” kind of day.
There will always be times when discomfort is not as easily conquered, and that is when the things we tell ourselves are better left short and sweet.
Warm up done.
Water. Workout flats. Strides. High knees. A few quick stretches. Go.
Legs heavy. Run through it. Eyes on the finish. You’ll get a break. Zone out. Grit it out. Repeat.
Approaching the finish line of a hard workout or race is the definition of bliss; it is the moment you realize you have won the battle against discomfort. That very moment, that feeling, that sense of accomplishment--that is why you are a runner. But this version of success does not come easily. In order to get there, you have to grit it out. You have to tell yourself things. There is just no other way.
What will you tell yourself today?
Written by Amanda Marino