WHY SO SERIOUS…?
The most important lesson of communion with nature was an awareness of the narrow limits of our own existence.— Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859).
As a group of people who spend so many hours outdoors, runners can be a negative lot. Much of that has to do with with our competitive nature and is generally a self directed negativity. Meaning we are much harder on ourselves than necessary. How often do you read or hear a a runner (as a runner I will focus on that sport, but this applies to all endurance athletes such as runners, cyclists, or triathletes) make an excuse for any performance that does not result in a 1st place finish? I read a post on Twitter this morning that did exactly this. This performance neurosis (I just made that up!) plagues amateur and professional runners alike. It may be more prevalent in the amateur group as we attempt to justify our place in the sport or on the race course. I am guilty of it many times.
For such a solitary sport running can be very social in the worst way sometimes. You have an instant metric to compare yourself. Every other racer is running the same course, the same miles, and dealing with the same elements as you. Apps like Strava, which I use and like, are great for encouragement but can also be a source of negativity as we compare our effort against those of someone else on the same segments. We are all familiar with the standard deflections…”I ate the wrong food last night; I drank too much last night; I have a nagging leg injury; I’m getting over a cold; My training has been inconsistent due to work or family; or I need to focus my training more on HR, tempo, fast/slow twitch muscles, or one of the other million variables and tips you read online.” These have all come out of my mouth after a race or even a group run!
Fuck performance neurosis! You cannot allow negative thoughts to occupy your mind rent free. It is easy to be hard on ones self. However, once you have critiqued your actions and corrected any deficiencies, you should expel any lingering negativity as no longer productive to your further development and growth. As a father of two I remember watching my children play in our backyard. I remember them running around until they almost passed out tired where they were standing. But what were they doing? Laughing, smiling, feeling the joy in running. I remember that feeling running track when I was an adolescent and teenager. The pure joy in floating around the track or the cross-country trail. It was fun! It was exhilarating! It felt like freedom from all human constraints! On your next run re-connect with the feeling. Smile. Laugh out loud when your grinding that long run out and your body is begging you to quit. Enjoy the process. Stop being so hard on yourself and be happy with your effort in that moment.
At some point the burdens of life made us too serious. It is time to return to the good old days of experience the joy of running (I am writing this for me as well). Whether you are on the podium, middle of the pack or the very last person, enjoy yourself! Don’t make an excuse for your performance. Just accept where you are and strive to improve daily on your own terms. So the next time you run, whether for training or a race, think childlike.