The most difficult part of any run, at least for me, is the beginning. Overcoming the inertia, the law of nature that states an object at rest will remain at rest, is the most monumental task I face each day on the running calendar. My mind goes through a hundred scenarios of why not to run. This is never helped by those who think you are already crazy, who believe there are better ways to spend your time. It’s a small miracle whenever I lace up and head out the door. And honestly, some days I don’t and it is those days that carry the most regret. Luckily, I run enough when I may not want to that I can run a marathon and stay relatively fit.
The force that keeps me moving at this point in my running is habit. I’m committed. I experienced enough of the satisfaction and rewards of distance running to overcome the voices in my head. I know that mile three or four in a long run tends to be the magic mile, when limbs are loose and the nagging voice asking me persistently, “why are we doing this again?” fades. And that’s not the only voice to fade either.
I’m a bit of a depressive personality by nature, adding a whole other dimension to inertia, both physical and mental. Imagine waking up on certain days, crushed by a weight of loneliness and dark thoughts, and not wanting to get out of bed, much less run. Last Friday, for example, I ran what is supposed to be the first of two 20-mile runs this fall marathon training season. I didn’t want to do anything that day. My mood was very bad. I also had to be up early if I wanted to attempt the run at all, because later in the day I promised to take care of my nephew after his kindergarten class ended. Through shear will and an annoying alarm clock, I was up by six and at the start of my planned out-and-back route by 7:30 a.m. so I could pick him up at 11:30 a.m. across town and through the woods.
Starting out, I began plotting turn around points in my head. I was running slowly and was using the clock to justify not running the full 20 since I need to pick the nephew up. Running alone makes my pace slower on these long runs I found this season. I continued to be depressed with life and my running pace until about mile five. At that point, my mind started mulling over the fact that I was a quarter of a way done, it was cool, and really, the course I was on really wasn’t that bad. It actually had a pretty spectacular river view in certain parts.
Then I hit mile six. The mile terminated in this uphill bend on a bike path with a municipal airport in front of me. The airfield was under a thin layer of fog. Our area was still in that magic hour of sunrise where everything had a golden sheen to it. At that moment a small plane was taking off. Wisps of fog curled around its wings. There was a glint of light on the nose, and suddenly it was off. Flight re-framed, and picturesque. Suddenly my run was more than just not that bad. It was good.
I finished that run with negative splits and plenty of time to pick up my nephew from school. I missed my recovery run the next day, but for the most part, the rest of my weekend stayed pretty happy and upbeat. I’ve since ran two days of yassos and one on-pace eight mile run.
Focusing on the benefits of my runs, forcing myself to get out there, is very good medicine. The act of doing, I’ve discovered, is what counts, whether it is running, life, or writing.
And yes, I’ve put the last off for a while too, simply because I’ve felt so blue lately, I worry about it bleeding too much onto this blog and affect what some might think of me. As I need to remember, writing things out, much like running them out, never hurts. Once started it only helps in shedding those self-imposed limitations.
So, to all those who think going the distance is the worst part, my truth is that the source of pain is not in the activity itself. It is in the regret of not doing.