“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
I think of this quote a lot. I have had it on a post-it note at my desk at work for pretty much the length of time I have worked there. As I am sure you know, (I mean c’mon you’re reading a running blog) this quote hails from Thoreau’s Walden. Which is, as far as I am concerned, required reading for anyone who thinks there is a little more out there than vegetating in front of screens.
I’ve personally boiled this quote down to its most basic essence, to live deliberately. To me this means taking responsibility for things, and doing things on purpose, to have a reason. Running poses a set of challenges to live up to this mantra and for me the biggest obstacle for me is running as training. I like to run, because it makes me feel good, it’s that simple. Do I like waking up at 4am before work to get my miles in? Not really. Do I like being out in the freezing midwestern winter, dodging ice on the trail. Again, not really. But do I want to run 100 miles? Yes. Do I want to set the Katy FKT this spring? Yes, and there it is, I want something, and I’ll have to do some work for it.
Running deliberately means fitting your running into your life, so it is not a chore or a necessity but a demand. A personal demand you make of yourself. A daily activity that you want to do and to actualize on. You accept the consequences of that choice and reap both the risks and the rewards. Being a runner does not necessarily mean you run everyday. But I feel it does mean that off day choices are deliberate, so as to be able to run better the next day, or meet your training goals, or rest a fitful soreness. When you do run, it is with purpose, it has a purpose. Running for fun, running for fitness, running to compete; these can all be a purpose, a true reason to be out there. In my experience, if I have guilted myself into running that day, meaning I wasn’t really feeling like getting out for a run, that run is often a negative experience or not the feeling I was looking for, in a similar regard if I miss a run for no really good reason, I feel lame.
How do I rectify this paradox? There is one video that I have found that for me, rights the ship, addresses this central issue. Its the GingerRunner film Wonderland about Gary Robbins doing the FKT around Mt. Rainier. The video is fantastic, as are pretty much all the GingerRunner videos, if you haven’t watched it, go ahead and take 15 minutes to make your day 20-30% more awesome. (Sidebar: If you haven’t seen the Ginger Videos how are you reading this blog?? Awesome!!.) There is one thing that Gary says that resonates on those tough days when you just feel like poop, where running deliberately is tough to do. He says “I tell all my athletes, you have to go through incredible lows.” Since watching this video, I have had less trouble waking up, less trouble burning the headlamp, less trouble taking rest time off. Those lows, those too can be calculated, seen as a deliberate necessities to the process of running, especially ultras.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win” -JFK
Well that’s two pretty big quotes for one blog post! This is the other quote in my office and I think it is fitting here as well. Running, living vegan, raising a family, being a good person is not always easy, but it is required of us. Living deliberately to meet you goals will serve to organize and measure the best of your energies and skills. And the reason you run today, why I run today, is because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, and one we am unwilling to postpone. There isn’t enough life to postpone any of it.
So get out there, run 10 minutes, run 10 hours, run fast, run slow, run whatever way gives you no pain and max flow. If it’s an off day recognize the food you eat today will effect your run tomorrow. If you’re hurt, work the unhurt parts out, you will keep in your routine and you’ll still be working on your goals. If it’s a rest day, get more sleep. Run deliberately, find only the essential facts of life, smile in the joy, understand the low, push to live the life you want to live. Run.