It’s officially the second month of the New Year and with a long list of goals (attempting 3 ultras, a multi-day run, & Santa Barbara 100 redemption run!) , I hit the ground running on the first. But if you’re anything like me your 2016 motivation is already wavering. I know this about myself because I deal with it constantly so I make sure that I have some sort of plan to help me stick to my commitments when the desire has left. The problem that I started to discover this year is that my weaknesses have seemed to grow exponentially and my old plans were no longer working. Every Sunday I would still make my weekly workout plan, make sure that I had my accountability partners, and enter each day with being mindful about my decisions; but with all of this it seemed like something was awry. So I decided to think outside of the box and change some things up.
February 2016: A month without wine
A few days before the first of February I decided that maybe it is a good time to give up wine for the month. I needed to clear my head, to remember why I started running, why I like to workout, and why sacrifice is good for the soul. Sometimes I can get caught up in comparing myself to others as a way of justifying why I am not seeking my personal best. The statements “Well I got up and worked out before work” or “I don’t eat fast food” can start to derail me. The truth of the matter is this: I am not seeking my greatness when compared to someone else, I am seeking greatness when compared to my old self.
Through the hustle and bustle of a day, juggling work, a marriage, an amazing dog, friends, and other responsibilities, I sort of look forward to my glass or two of wine at the end of the night; however, what I noticed was happening was that I was allowing wine to unwind me rather than being mindful and relaxed as a means of unwinding. So what was left? Often times dehydration, a hangover, and stunted workouts. I realized that I was allowing a nice pleasurable experience like wine to take precedence over my goals. I was reminded: to be great and to do great comes great sacrifice. It may seem silly that wine is a great sacrifice, but just like Netflix or social media, it is easy to allow pleasurable things to infiltrate and take the place of commitments.
So I am taking this time to not only increase my training, but to also refocus and remind myself why I do what I do. Recently I had a conversation with someone close to me, and he was bothered by my “need” to do ultras. He said the same things I hear often “what about your knees?” “Just wait 10 years,” “isn’t that so bad for your body?” or my personal favorite, “why do you do that?” I became immediately defensive and probably jumbled my words trying to respond. But the next morning while driving to work I reflected again. “Sam, why do you do this? You often feel guilty because you didn’t train enough, and even though you workout at least 6 times per week, it always feels like you could have done more. Aside from the time commitment, the money it has cost doing all of these races is in the thousands, (and you’re a social worker), and most people that you speak to will never understand. So why?”
Conveniently enough I was listening to a Rich Roll podcast about pursuing your personal best, and this podcast helped me further clarify the “Why” question. Ultimately I needed to search for this answer again, and not because I was being asked the question by an outsider, but because my soul needed to know that all of me, my mind, my body, and my mental state, was on board with the commitment it takes to continue on this path.
This is what I came up with:
1. I run because it keeps me connected to the outdoors.
2. I run because there is beauty when coming face to face with the worst parts of yourself and moving forward.
3. I run because when you reach that moment that you think you can’t take another step, you can surprise yourself with another 30 miles.
4. I run because I am so much more than I have, at times, given myself credit for.
5. I run because it keeps me committed to something bigger and better than myself.
6. I run because the feel and smell of sweat reminds me of the effort my body is capable of.
7.I run because of the community that I have met.
8.I run because right now, today, I am able to.
9. I run because it drives me to do better, to be better, to look excuses in the face and hit the trails anyway.
10. I run because I am a better version of myself, because running has taught me that suffering can be a blessing because suffering drives the soul into action.
They have asked me before and they will ask me again, just as I have asked myself before, and in a few weeks when I attempt my next ultrarun, I am sure I will ask myself again. So here it is…this is why I run. Finding and living a life worth telling a story about (thank you Todd Durkin) goes much faster in running shoes.