Are You Listening?

The life of every runner, there must be high water marks and ebb tides.   There are those harmonious periods of time when running is so automatic and so effortless that anything is possible.  During these times, running is as much a part of your whole being as sleeping and eating and breathing.  And there are those dreadful stages where you just can't motivate yourself to get out the door, or even worse, your body denies you the privilege, and you start to question where the part of you that used to be a runner is hiding.  Each is necessary, and each motivates in its own way.

During this morning's run, my mind wandered, a far too rare occurrence in current months.   For the first couple of miles, my thoughts focused on Boston.  Times have changed for the better for runners my age and older.  Qualifying has suddenly become a reality for many, who before only held it as a dream.  And it has now become a dream for people like me, who until now had resolved themselves to a running life, which would never include Boston.

As I entered my third mile, thoroughly enjoying unseasonably cool Eastern Pennsylvania weather, my reflections turned to various runners I know, with a particular emphasis on those who run fast and train hard.  While I'm out floating along at a 10-minute pace, well within myself and smelling the roses, I know they are busting their humps with repeat intervals, hill workouts, and lactate threshold runs designed to build speed, endurance, and most of all mental toughness.  They know that it is here where the race is won or lost, and not in the last hundred yards.

By the time I approached mile five, I was deep in thought about what the main difference was between them and me.   The best way I can put it is this.  For most of my running life, I have listened to my body.  When my body says slow down, I do.   When my body says stop, I do.  When my body says I can no longer run a 5K at a sub 7-minute pace, I accept it as the final word.  I give in to my body and believe what it says.

The runners who train hard, and run fast have a totally different approach.  They don't listen to their body, but instead insist that their bodies listen to them.   When their body says slow down, they speed up.  When their body says stop, they go.  When their body says they can't run a 5K at a sub 6-minute pace, they try to run it at 5:45.  When their body hurts so badly they want to scream, they bite their lip and continue to push.  They will not give in to their body, and defy the negative messages.

By the time I finished my run, I was a different person than I had been an hour before.   There have been those agonizing times when my body rebelled against me, and more often, I have given in to all the lies my body has told me. Now, I think it's time to return the favor.  I have very rarely declared war against my body.  The one time I did, the body fought back, and put me out of running for over a year.    That was in 1997.

Now, in the summer of 2002, I am ready to attack again.  Body, are you listening?   The runner is talking to you, and I'm out to kick your butt.  I will no longer pay attention to you when you try to convince me of what my limitations are.  I'm ready to ambush you, and take you for the ride of your life.  Together, we are going to work to run faster than we have gone in years, whether you like it or not.  I'm calling the shots now.  Are you listening?


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