On Running and Living
I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately.
It’s the summer before senior year, and already the questions are starting to tumble in: What next? Everyone from my grandparents to my professors to my internship supervisors want to know what I’ll be doing, where I’ll be going. And it’s exciting, thinking about all the jobs I want to apply for — reporting fellowships in London! teaching English in Jordan! — but it’s also scary. I have a giant google doc that includes all the jobs, internships, fellowships and programs I’m interested in, and much like training for a marathon, I’m trying to steadily make my way through the seemingly endless list of tasks involved in launching my life after college.
What’s striking is how similar running is to life. Day after day I set tiny goals — an extra mile in my tempo run, a more polished version of my cover letter, a more optimistic attitude in the mornings and more grateful attitude as I slip into bed — and as I accomplish each of them, I know that I am inching myself just a bit closer to the final one, whether that’s a marathon, a job, or a more healthy mind and body.
This weekend I pasted some decorations on the wall above my bed — postcards, a picture of my cat. I also included two pieces of memorabilia from my training process for my second half marathon — the first race I ever did speedwork for, and where I set my current PR. The first is a post-it with the words, “You love this. You wouldn’t be trying so hard if you didn’t. Think about how much this means to you!” The other one is a quote from an email my mom sent me: “Most important: Do not be disappointed. Run your best race. Push yourself harder when you want to fall off (but you know how to do this from tempos) – you will be happy at the end when you tell yourself ‘I did my best.’ The crowd of other runners will make you go faster and so will the spectators. […] Also, the strategy sounds good for keeping your mind in check and not filled with negative thoughts. Also have a positive mantra. You did the work, you can do it. I know you can.”
As I think more and more about the future — both in running and in life — these quotes seem surprisingly dual-purposed. The first can apply to almost anything difficult but meaningful. I originally wrote it to get myself to stop scaring myself out of doing tempo runs, but it could easily apply to scary job interview or a challenging essay.
My mom’s words also ring true to life right now. This summer I’m working two jobs and taking an Arabic class. I’ll have to push myself harder at a time that most people are relaxing. But this is something I know how to do, and that I know will take me towards my goal in the long run. Having other people competing helps me to challenge myself, and so does the knowledge that I’m surrounded by “spectators” who are cheering for me. I need to keep repeating positive mantras to myself — reminding myself that I AM prepared, that I AM capable, even though I’m often inclined to sell myself short.
And most importantly, I can’t be disappointed. So long as I “run my best race,” that’s all I can ask of myself. The best life is not necessarily going to be the one I planned on, but it will be the one I’m living. As long as I’m not constantly looking back, second guessing, I know that I’ll be happy.
This morning’s run was a rehearsal in pushing hard and positive thoughts: a 10 mile long run with two miles at half marathon pace at the end. I was dreading the HMP miles as I laced up my sneakers — I was running with a much faster friend, and even though he told me to set the pace, I was afraid I would embarrass myself trying to hold 8:30 min/miles at the end of a long run.
For some reason my computer won’t upload the data from my Garmin, but the run was actually a success! Most of the easy miles were at about a 10:15 min/mile pace, which is my goal long run pace (according to the Runners World calculator) and then miles 8 and 9 clocked in at 8:30 and 8:32. Whoot!
Annnd, the week in running/general exercise:
Monday: 20 mins arms/abs workout, 15 mile bike ride
Tuesday: “Body Sculpt” at the Y
Wednesday: 6 mile tempo run
Thursday: 15 mile bike ride
Saturday: 4 mile easy run, 30 mins of lap swimming at the pool (oh yeah, I started my lifeguarding job this week!)
Sunday: 10 mile long run w/ miles 8-9 at HMP