I continue to be amazed by the parallels I find between running and life.
Yesterday, I headed out into the afternoon sun set on covering six miles (four had been my self-imposed limit for nearly five years). Like the bullheaded former athlete I am, I made this decision fully aware of my current lack of conditioning. I just wanted to test myself.
I think a lot while I run.
Most of the time, I’m focused on maintaining proper form as I fatigue. As I’ve said before, I’ve changed my technique in the last few months and still find it necessary to remind my body what it’s supposed to do periodically.
Occasionally, a host of experiences crystallize into a message.
I figured out when my movement had degraded to the point it could do more harm than good and stopped short of my goal.
I made it at least 5.25 miles, give or take a few steps, more than 25% farther than I’ve run since September of 2005. No mean feat. As I walked the remaining 1.5 miles home, I pieced together the reasons I was unable to complete my task.
I connected the dots between my abbreviated (but still pretty far) jaunt to checkered parts of my history.
I came up with three reasons for my disappointing results, disparate as they would seem:
1. The individual is unprepared
I’ll be blunt: I’m really in no condition to be running like that. There is something to be said for the necessity of will power during exercise, sure, as long as it is used with intelligence.
I’ve only run twice since I hurt my lower leg several weeks ago, yet came to the conclusion running 50% more than I have in half a decade was a good idea. (This is the opposite of smart.)
To push myself so far was to demand my body do what it can only struggle to right now, a situation begging for injury–or worse.
2. The conditions are unfavorable
I smiled at some rainclouds in the western sky as I looked over my shoulder on the way out, pleased to know a cool rain would aid my second wind during my trek.
To my chagrin, the dark greyness ended up tracking north instead of east, denying me the boost of splashing through puddles instead of melting under oppressive humidity and blazing sun–taxing weather for anyone, let alone someone rebuilding fitness.
3. The favored path is unreachable
I love winding through a small wildlife preserve nestled between a couple of housing additions to take a break from the din of passing cars. The stillness is a welcome respite from the always-visible bustle of civilization on the sidewalk. Due to heavy rains over the last two days, the creek that bisects the park has swollen over its banks.
Instead of being able to take the scenic trail I like to, I made it about a hundred meters inside before I encountered thigh-deep water.
I had to turn around and climb hills I’d just breezed down.
Sometimes the way you would prefer to go is simply unavailable.
It all adds up to ending before reaching the target.
Even though we leave the house with the best intentions and a commitment to go the distance–regardless of how long it takes–sometimes circumstances conspire to keep us from making it that first time.
It’s no excuse to quit.
I’ll put in the work tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that until 6 miles feels like a warm-up.
Chasing the goal another day is merely another step toward a great run.