Running teaches you about life when you half-kill yourself…

I woke up this morning with a really tight chest. I’ve developed this poor habit of going to sleep with my fan on, then waking up in the middle of the night with a cough and whatnot because the night air coming into my room sets off some dormant asthma stuff. I like having the cool air when I go to bed. And it’s a dumb decision, really. Even so, when I woke up this morning, I knew that I needed to go running. It’s Tuesday, I try to run every other day, and the last day I ran was Sunday. Time to pay the piper.

I’m running the C25K training program, an interval training program that combines periods of running and walking to condition the body into running a 5K. Today’s task: 5 minute warm-up, 3 minutes of jogging. 1:30 walking, 5 minutes jogging, 2:30 walking, then repeat the jogging and walking with a 5 minute cool-down at the end. Daunting, but doable. At least, that’s how I felt until the end of the first 3 minute period.

I was falling apart. My calves were tightening up, my lungs were about to give out, I couldn’t maintain my breathing. Sweat got in my eyes.  All of this after 3 minutes. Doing my first walk period, I had no idea how I was going to continue. Then I heard the signal from my iPod, a mechanical woman’s commanding voice: “RUN NOW.” I started the jog again, venturing out onto a street I’d never run before to change the pace. I’d chosen the route with a plethora of hills and moderate grades. Great.

Cars buzzed past me as I huffed my way down the road. Dogs barked at me from inside houses and fenced yards, one of which was a pretty awesome collie…but that’s not the point. Steadily I progressed further and further from home, mouth drying out and heart pounding in my chest. But I kept running. By the time I reached the second rest period, I was a couple miles from home and ready to call it quits. Every inch of curb in the subdivision I was in looked like the world’s most comfortable chair, then again, sprawling out in the middle of the road didn’t sound like a bad idea either. Staring up at the afternoon sun, I folded my hands behind my head and heard MechWoman again, this time a taunt: “HALF-WAY.” Mental response: FUCK. A minute later: “RUN NOW.” Gotta love encouragement.

I saw as I started the run back that the entire route back would basically be uphill. It’s funny how you don’t notice details like that until they’re right in front of you… but going through the third walk and into the fourth run, I felt energy start to show up. Nothing vibrant or shiny, but energy nevertheless. By the time I reached the end of the fourth stage I felt completely worn out, but I could keep running. I went a little longer, using a trash can out on the street as a sort of make-shift finish line. I finished.

So, what did I learn on this run? To an extent, the same thing in every other running story: stick to the objective, stay positive, and you’ll find you’ve got more strength in you than you expected. But the real lesson, the one relevant to my life right now: sickness and problems only hold you back when you stop focusing on success. I could have woken up this morning and decided to stay in, skip running until tomorrow…or the next day…or next week…but then where would I be? It was a struggle the whole time, but it was worth it. I’m learning to fight through struggle.

I’m a commitmentphobe. Jobs, relationships, writing…the second there’s struggle on the line, I get scared and make poor choices. I’ve left good work, disappointed good people. I’ve let down good followers. I’ve hurt good friends. But I’m learning that the key to success is having the courage to commit to ideas and see them through to the end.

I’m becoming a believer in this idea: When you truly commit to success, others will commit to you; you’ll succeed together. I committed to completing today’s run and gained the energy to succeed; as I commit to other projects, I know friends and resources will help make it happen. I’m learning that I have to rely on others to make it through…and I’m becoming ok with that. We’ll struggle and succeed together.

-Josh

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5 thoughts on “Running teaches you about life when you half-kill yourself…

  1. Brand new facebook friends and I’m already creepin’…
    Cool post though. It is a great feeling to break down barriers.
    And I second jnystrom1’s comment.
    Born to Run is an excellent book.

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