Note: This post was originally published on March 20, 2012, but I liked it too much to let it stay in the archives.
“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” – William Faulkner
I hate running. In fact, I hate it so much that I sometimes run to the cadence of “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this…”. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s never been something that I enjoyed, but I think you probably get that by now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m in awe of runners and am eternally hopeful that my next run will be it – the time where my breath is plentiful, my legs feel springy and energized, and I achieve that euphoric runner’s high. My mind will sharpen and new business ideas will spring from the catacombs of my mind. I’ll effortlessly sprint past people and they’ll look on with admiration and think “I wish that I could do that”. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but something else has.
Yesterday, after work, I set out for my first run of the season along my usual course – a 5 mile stretch along the perimeter of North Park’s lake. The path is full of inclines and declines and surrounded by scenic nature. While running, I started to question why I do this, and somewhere along mile 4.5 I found my answer.
Being that my route is around a lake, there’s not a lot of cheating opportunities. You can’t cut corners or stop halfway, but three opportunities do present themselves during my runs:
- The first is shortly after I set out. I’m a mile from the car after 10 minutes of running, and the thought of stopping enters my mind. “You can stop and turn around now. That’s still 2 miles. Pretty respectable”. I keep going.
- The second opportunity presents itself about 2.5 miles later, in the form of a quaint little footbridge. Typically, there are families lingering on it. They’re chatting and laughing as they look over the rails, or through the posts, at a small waterfall beneath its planks. Across the bridge, I can see my car in the parking lot. I’m sweaty, tired, and ready to go home, but I press on. I didn’t come to the park to run 3.5 miles. I came to run 5.
- The last opportunity to cheat appears shortly thereafter. It’s in the form of a road that turns down and traces the edge of the lake. By turning here, I save myself the trouble of an uphill climb to the finish and shave a half mile off of my run. It’s oh so tempting, but I keep going.
The last leg is by far my least favorite, but as I trudge uphill towards the finish line I feel good. Sometimes I even crack a smile. You see, I may not be a good runner, but what I am good at is going the extra mile, and every time I run I do so just to prove that to myself.
I run because I can’t.