(Note: This post originally appears at highlandshashers.com as a guest post)
As we all know, the holiday season has all but passed by again, and with that comes the inevitable social gatherings, be it family, friends, co-workers, or any combination therein, eventually someone always brings up running. Typically it’s an inquiry for advice regarding a New Years Resolution; how to start running, how to keep going, what shoes to wear, and being that we live in a northern state, there is always a question about whether or not my lungs burn in the cold (they don’t, they never have, yours don’t either, HTFU). While all of these questions are benign, their intention never seems to be… In the context of the holiday party, what people are actually asking for is not advice, it’s a panacea. And just like at some point in your life someone has to tell you that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, I must inform you that when it comes to running, there is no panacea, there is only consistency, and discipline.
This of course goes against our common cultural logic where every article written about running includes 10 tips to your next PR, but as we all know, those articles are written to sell magazines, not improve times. Actual improvement is incremental, sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not, and sometimes it involves getting slower while your body prepares itself for the next leap. Naturally improvement requires workouts, it requires long-runs, and myriad unsexy excercises designed to keep our bodies balanced and healthy, and these are typically the topics I am asked about by my aspiring friends. What they tend to not want to hear is always the most important part, which is that all workouts aside, one must wake up the next morning, lace up your flats, and step outside your front door, and start running.
In our instant-gratification, 3-day fix-oriented culture, nothing seems less sexy than actual dedication, but if your goals include human-powered distance or speed, this is the actual panacea: Run, preferably a lot, sometimes fast, sometimes long. Understandably, it isn’t sexy to discuss the day-in-day-out monotony of rising early every morning so that you can slowly wear the rubber off of your running shoes. In actuality, it’s damn near boring, but it is indeed the secret, as unprofound as it is. The uninitiated will not understand the discipline required to run great distances, nor should they! This understanding is instead honed mile by mile over the course of days, weeks, and months. This knowledge is earned by ice-crusted facial hair, blisters, countless miles lit by dimming headlamps, blackened toenails, unmentionable chafing, and ineffable degrees of discomfort endured while pursuing goals that many will never begin to understand.
While this lack of shortcuts is a deterrent to many, those of us who choose these pursuits should not shy away from the challenge, but rather embrace it. Camus imagined Sisyphus smiling, claiming that the struggle itself is enough to claim a mans heart. And while it may not always make for good dinner conversation, I think he’s right. Learn to love the work, because if your goals are as ambitious as they should be, then you already know, it never gets any easier, only faster.