Thursday, April 7, 2016

Patience…. Easy to say harder to practice.

We as Americans sometimes feel we want something and we want it now. We want to believe we can put in some hard work, but that it will eventually pay off in a short time to give us what we want. If we want something really bad we just work harder and expect results quicker. We go through life accomplishing tasks, and reaping rewards but the longer term goals allude us because the commitment is too much. Sometimes we get sidetracked, lose our way or just move on to something else because the end result isn’t coming fast enough. For much of my younger years of life I as a runner fell into this mold and the quick success I had ended up plaguing me later in my career.

As a runner I enjoyed some really quick early success. By my first full year of running I was running personal records in every event and could not be stopped. Sure I grinded out workouts and seasons but I was constantly getting rewarded with new PR’s and running felt like the perfect partner for me. As the years went on, the success did not come as quick, and sometimes setbacks despite working really hard. By the time I stopped running in 2003, PR’s were far and few but the work I was putting in was still the same if not more. After an 8 year hiatus I came back to running and after my first marathon I believed I could get back to the shape I was in before. I mean I just need to work hard, train with faster people and everything will just fall into place. In 2011 my running career begun again, and it has been a 5 year grind to get back to where I left off in 2003.

Running is a sport that while it rewards you for the work you put in, it is never an instant gratification sport. It requires the utmost patience and long term commitment to be the best you can be. Sure I learned as a teenager when you first begin you can reach goals fast and furiously, but as you hit that peak the amount of work you need to put in to break through the next barrier sometimes seems insurmountable. As we continue to push our bodies to new limits we continually question what we are doing wrong, why can’t we achieve our next goal as easily as before? We constantly blame ourselves and blame our training as the problem and instantly assume we just need to train harder and all will be right. The answer is always, more miles, more workouts, and more intensity. It’s this attitude that usually leads us down the path to more disappointment. Injuries, burnout, no longer loving the sport itself, these are all sometimes bad outcomes when we can’t practice the patience needed for a sport like running.

I restarted my career in 2011 and I told my running friends many times, my training was going well and I was ready to take the next step, to be back to what I was at my peak in college. I have continually put in the weekly mileage, the long runs, and the workouts. But I still couldn’t improve or get back to where I used to be. Frustration set in many times, what am I doing wrong? Back in late 2014 after a failed Club XC race that had me beat 28 people and I sat down and took stock of the situation. I had run about 9000 miles since starting back in 2011 and countless workouts and races but I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. I had changed up tons of things about my running to try and fix my frustration of not getting to my goal fast enough, but never wavered from my plan. I decided at the end of 2014 to just have patience and stick with the plan. To keep gradually increasing mileage every season, to increase intensity and that I would finally take the next step. The work will pay off, I kept telling myself and it will be totally worth it when it does.

Thank god I did because one year later my patience in this long grind since 2011 has paid off. 2016 is by far the best year of my running life, I am running as fast if not faster than I was during my best college days and my confidence is sky high. It took commitment to my plan and patience because in a sport like running instant gratification is never the outcome. Too many times I see friends get fed up with running when things aren’t coming as quick as they’d like. They are doing the right things, they just need time to get there. The greatest part of running to me has always been when you can look back and see how far you’ve come and see how all that hard work finally pays off with the results you want. I have grinded, gutted, and been thoroughly embarrassed for the past 5 years trying to revive a running career I once thought was lost forever. Despite many setbacks, I have never faltered from my plans and I continued on this path. I never let my frustration set in to lead me down a path of destruction to my goals. I cannot stress enough how important having patience is to your running career. There are times when you just need to flip the table over for sure but those are rare. More often than not you just need to trust your plan and have the patience needed to see it through. Four months into 2016 and I am hitting new territory I never thought I’d see as a runner but I will never lose sight of what got me here. A goal, a desire to achieve it, and the patience to see it through no matter what was thrown my way.

The most important lesson I just wanted to stress was like anything in life it’s just important to take a step back sometimes and look around. Don’t judge yourself based on other people, your progress in life is based on you. Come up with a plan and goals and work towards them but don’t change your plan because things aren’t happening fast enough. Enjoy the ride, because otherwise you are rushing to the end of the book. When the best parts are everything that gets you to the ending. A bad run here, a good workout there, or just a chance to grow into a better person it’s all part of the journey and you need to enjoy it while it happens. Because when you get to the end and achieve your goal it will be that much more amazing.

I usually do a recap of my last week here but just wanted to give some updates to 2016 as I have not blogged as much as I would have liked.

Races in 2016
Frozen Finger 5 Miler – 2nd Place 28:04
Club Challenge 10 Miler – 23rd place – 56:55 (PR)
Tim Kennard 10 miler – 2nd place – 54:58 (New PR)
Rock and Roll DC Half - 35th Place 1:16:55 (New PR)
Bunny Runs 5k – 1st Place – 16:28
Goal Race – Pittsburgh Half Marathon 1 May

Breaking 55 minutes in the 10 miler is something I wasn’t sure would ever happen, and the 16:28 5k was my first 5k under 17 since 2003. And I think it’s important to share my journey with people struggling to think they may never get to where they want.

Some pictures of my exciting 2016 so far.