I am a runner, and I love it! I run at least a couple of times per week, and love the feeling of being outdoors, working my body hard, and developing my strength. Some runs are better than others, of course. If I am tired or distracted, running is difficult. My legs feel like lead weights, and my mind feels like my worst enemy. But on the good days … well, I have the strength of an ox! The speed of a gazelle! The focus of a professional hitman! Those sorts of days make running my favourite thing to do for myself.
My love affair with running started when I was a child. As a bright-eyed, bushy tailed eight year old I would line up at my local track every Saturday morning, and compete against my peers at Little Athletics. I was expected to participate in all of the events, which had me facing my fear of the high jump bar, and blundering my way through races with hurdles. The events I looked forward to most were the ones where I simply got to run. The longer the race, the better. I was never the slowest runner on the track, so my mediocre performance in sprints was never a total embarrassment, but I was always one of the most determined competitors. This allowed me to fare well in middle distance runs, the 1500m being my favourite.
The winter off-season brought cross-country running to my childhood schedule, and I loved nothing more than rising to the challenge of the longer runs. As I got older the runs got longer. Nowadays, I enjoy running a 10km circuit, and I posted my best time of 57mins just last week. I’m certainly not fast enough to compete seriously, but I work hard at shaving every second I can off my time.
Running teaches me a lot about life. It suits my energetic personality, and allows my mind to run free while my body is occupied. The other day I found myself running into a particularly strong headwind that had whipped up along the river on that chilly winter day. It was tough going, and I worked hard to keep my time to a reasonable pace. The lady in my running app is one of my best friends, cheering me along at every kilometer, and commending me when I achieve new personal bests. This headwind guaranteed that there was to be no outstanding achievements in the first half of my run. I struggled to keep each kilometer to a 6min time. I felt tired and my legs were screaming at me. The entire world seemed to have every intention of holding me back. No matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t maintain my usual performance in the face of this environmental resistance.
At the 3.5km mark, this particular run takes me across a bridge to the other side of the river, where I continue back along for a further 4km. The bridge is quite high, which means that running up the first half offers a brief challenge. On this day though, the bridge felt like Everest. After running into the headwind that was more like a wall for 21 minutes, the last thing I wanted to do was tackle any sort of incline.
Positive self talk is the number one key in running. Without managing the words I am saying to my self along the way, I have absolutely no hope of exerting any authority over my body at all. I refused to listen to the desperate objections coming from my legs, and took another mouthful of sports drink to ease the stitch that was developing in my right side. Instead of yielding to the pain, I breathed deeply into my core. With every breath I told myself that I was powerful. I reminded myself that I have done this run before, and I encouraged myself with the knowledge that any form of resistance has the potential to make me stronger if I will rise to it.
Coming down the other side of the bridge gave me 15 seconds of downhill relief, but then I was back on the flat of the riverside track. I was all ready to tackle the next 4km leg, and continued to push myself through. As the track curved ever so gently off to the left, I noticed that a most marvellous change had occurred.
In running up and over the bridge, I had changed directions. I wasn’t running north any more … I was running south. This meant that the headwind I had run into for the first part of my run was now coming from behind me, pushing me along like a car that needs a roll start. The relief was out-of-this-world amazing! I felt as light as a feather, and faster than a speeding bullet. My time started getting faster and my phone lady was completely ecstatic! This run was the day I posted my fastest time. It taught me three things:
- Rising to environmental resistance strengthens me more than anything else can
- Slow and steady performance where progress is almost invisible is not always a sign of weakness or failure
- Changing my direction can position me to transform any obstacle into an accelerant