For a long time I never quite understood long distance running. I never got the point of it. Why bother with something so time consuming, painful, exhausting and repetitive. I also never understood the cult like obsessive nature of it. Always spoken of in reverential tones and the desperate need to do it at least four times a week. To hear the way some people talk, it makes running sound like some kind of quasi-sexual experience. Which, it is not. In any case, I don’t mean it that way. No pleasure is derived from running ten kilometers unless you enjoy experiencing pain. In fact, long distance running is a bit like taking a vow of celibacy. It’s about denial and sacrifice and spiritualism. Running shoes and heart monitors and pacing your self. That’s what I thought until I tried it.
I wouldn’t say it was an epiphany. Let’s just say I got it. I got what they were talking about. I understood the serenity and the solitude and the understanding. Listening and talking to your body. Challenging yourself to go faster and longer. In my fog of negativity I forgot. When you hit the wall of pain something miraculous happens. A small hit of happiness called Endorphins that flood over you. It’s the most natural form of pain relief there is. It refreshes and revitalizes the mind, the spirit and the body. You can keep going even when you think you can’t.
So what have I learned from this? For a start, I have a greater appreciation of the athletic efforts of competitive runners. I’m talking about the men and women, like you, who do this in serious competition. It isn’t just the sheer physicality of the task. There is a strong mental requirement. And here I am drawing on the philosophies of a man who took an ordinary but gifted runner and turned him into an Olympic champion. It applies in a race over a shorter distance as much as it would in a marathon. This is what he said. You must plan carefully. Build training around the concept of winning. Build stamina by setting time trial goals in the middle of a run. You must work out what he called your strategic race point. That is the point where you make your move and dictate terms rather than the other way around. Train for the worst possible scenario. Such as, a competition field made up of sprinters rather than stayers. If you put in the necessary hard work and the mileage into you legs it will become your advantage especially when you are going down to the wire.. But above all enjoy the experience. There is freedom and joy to be had as well as enormous satisfaction. But if, during the race, you get asked the question there is only one place to look to find the answer and that is inside your own self. The toughest competitor to overcome in any race is you. But when you do it is the greatest victory of all.