You probably have at least one CRAZY running friend. One who tells you about the excruciating and triumphant moments on the road or the trail, who at times inspires you to get out there and challenge yourself, and other times makes you content to sit back on the couch and watch them sweat & struggle while you put your feet up. I have many of these friends, and they have inspired me to run longer and further than I EVER thought I would. And you know what? It’s been fun.
Yeah, I said it, it’s FUN. The best advise I’ve ever received about running was from Roger Craig himself. Former SF 49er, NFL record holder (including Offensive Player of the Year), Roger Craig is a beast of an athlete. Hardest of the hard core, in my mind at least. I had the privilege to meet him the day before my first full marathon and he gave me some of the best advice ever, some of which I’ll reinforce below. His best comment? “You’re running a MARATHON? Good for you, I don’t do those any more — too hard on your body.” Thank you, inspirational man-beast-athlete, for reminding me that this sh*t is ridiculous and there is no reason to do it unless you are learning and growing, and having fun as you do. He also told me his best race time was when he stopped to sing with the bands along the Rock & Roll half marathon route. Go Roger, and thank you for your inspiration!
Here are my reflections from my longest race ever (stupid long, it took me over 11 hours we’ll just leave it at that), which I am still recovering from as I write.
1. IT’S NOT A RACE
First of all, I know I just called it one, but it’s not a flippin’ race. Not with anyone else, and I dare to say not even with yourself. What’s the point of pushing and suffering through miles of cityscapes or gorgeous nature trails? Why wouldn’t you want to observe, connect and ENJOY that? Methinks that too many of us are obsessed with numbers, with comparing ourselves to others on the path, to those in our age group, and to our past and future selves. I say, F that. I know this is motivating for some, but it’s really not for me. Maybe one day I’ll want to qualify for an elite race and my perspective will change, but for now? I’m in this for the long haul. I want my running to make my whole system, my body, my mind, my energy stronger, and not to tear me down so much that I can’t get up the next day or do it again in ten years. My mantra for this last race was what my college roommate tells her 3-year-old when she pets the cat “Soft soft, gentle gentle.”
2. SLOW DOWN
Along these lines, it is so important to slow down and pace yourself to be in it for the long haul. There will be some magical sparkling moments and memories that you cherish, but along the way there is a lot of, well, one foot in front of the other. Find your pace and work with it – you’ll naturally have more energy after a rest stop and less at the top of a long climb.
3. BABY STEPS
Break it down into small, digestible chunks. Run another 18 miles?? Hell, no. Run 5, 4, 4, 3 & 2 more miles? Now that sounds better! (Only to crazy people, I know:) Just get yourself to the next proverbial water stop, to the next point on your journey, rather than conceptualizing the whole thing at once, which can lead to overwhelm. Like this step? Check out my other blog on baby steps here.
Engage with your surroundings and the people around you. Nature and social interaction can help regulate the nervous system, and part of the fun of doing something ridiculous is joking and celebrating when the work is done. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, support you, and will encourage what is best for you, even if it means stepping out of the race to preserve your well-being. Your relationships and your health are more important than any accomplishment.
5. EXPECT EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWNS
Then if you don’t have one you’ll be super surprised! And when you do, you’ll welcome it as part of the territory. When you challenge yourself to meet a new goal you are also challenging yourself to move through any emotional or mental blocks you have to it. There will likely be many unpredictable ups and downs. Better to learn how to work with them than to try to plan for every moment ahead of time. So… be ready for these when they come, learn what you can, continue to be kind to yourself & keep your electrolytes balanced. Which brings me to the next point…
6. FEED YOURSELF
Physically, emotionally, spiritually, YOU NEED FOOD. Take a preventative stance and drink water before you get thirsty, connect with friends before you get lonely, and connect with your gods & goddesses before you’re begging for mercy. Challenge yourself to meet your needs before they become an emergency cry. Take breaks and hug the volunteers. Surround yourself with opportunities to be fed.
7. DO YOGA
At the very least, do some gentle stretching and keep your body and mind limber so your don’t snap. The real yoga juice is in the philosophy, though. As a running yogi, I could not help think of the yogic tenets Tapas (heat or fire), Svadhyaya (Self-Reflection) and Isvara Pranidhana (Surrender to God). A long race or pursuit of any worthy goal takes some of each of these.
8. HAVE FUN
Not having fun? Stop. Or change something. Obviously there are times in life that suck beyond our control. People die, economies change, natural disasters occur. Even amidst chaos we can be grateful for what we do have and find moments of joy & laughter. Like Carrie Bradshaw breaking out of her Mexicoma by laughing at Charlotte’s explosive diarrhea (Sorry, Sex in the City marathon on while I was icing my legs after the race:), you can find meaning, connect, laugh, and begin again.
Feel like you just ran 50 miles? Maybe this has been enough of a marathon for you, but what do YOU want to do? You may never want to run and that’s alright with me. Do you really want to write a book or start a business? At some point, you’ll need to make a whole-hearted, full-minded decision if this is what you want. Then go for it. Share your big goals in the comments below. And come back to find some more inspiration along the way!
With enduring love,