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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pulling Weeds from the Runner's Garden

We can only get to where we are going with time... with patience and really, really slowly. There is no shortcut.

Taking a break from a grinding and grueling running schedule can quickly take you a million miles away from the runner's reality.

Whether that break is elective, accidental or injury induced, the days turn into weeks, new habits form and the running lifestyle morphs into bags of potato chips and a good thick layer of winter warmth to challenge your pants with...

Weeds in the Garden  
As I find myself in this predicament currently, my mind wanders occasionally to plans of getting started again soon... tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow... only a day away, perpetually. The left ankle/foot injury seems mostly okay, for the potential of short runs but as the injury subsides and pep returns I am faced with the fields of excuses which keep me from getting started, even if on a bike (gasp).

Without the constant tending of these excuse weeds by way of daily visits to training mileage and moving toward goals the Excuse Fields quickly choke out all around them.

Now, these tangled webs of reasons not to run have obliterated the expansive reasons to run... "It is too cold, I just ate, I haven't eaten yet, I am tired (really?), it's dark, it's windy, the weather is suppose to be bad in a couple of days maybe... my running pants are upstairs"... these are a few examples of the types of excuses growing wild in my Excuse Field.

When tending to the runner's garden we find zealous appeal in plucking these weeds as they attempt to break the surface. We recognize them even before germination and we have a masterpiece of sustainability.

Overwhelmed at the Helm
So what to do? It's a lot of weeds out there!! It seems like too much when you look at them all tangled and multiplying with a life of their own!! Removing them seems as overwhelming as any idea we have distanced ourselves from, impossibility fills the void left by neglect. It is as defeating as anything we fail to truly focus on.

We don't have a magic wand, at least I don't. We have only simple tools to rectify this mess of neglect. We pull a weed at a time. We have some gear to deal with the weather, the darkness, the slick roads. Most important, we have gumption to get out and do the simple work. To build endurance, toughness and our own relative speed, or our ability to give our best effort toward a task.

The Simple Tools
We have to love to go through the aches and pains of getting started, the process has immense value in itself.

We have to be consistently stepping toward the next beacon no matter how faint a glow. In time, we will find that we are experiencing something true and that we have become connected with this new mood, unique to this latest grouping of days we refer to as a training cycle. As we move, we can look back on previous achievements as harvests from a perfectly executed runner's garden. Those times we looked at the impossible and dared it to stop us. The other times our weeds had overrun us and we had no choice but to get down in the dirt and cultivate something amazing.

In this way, we fall in love with running again and find the true value in dreaming up goals and chasing them down. This is what separates the runner from the settler's herd. When our yield is harvested we know exactly where it came from. Where each deposit of hard work was completed, where the challenges made us question the validity of this pursuit. On harvest day though, when we have reached this beacon we are validated in our quest.

We know that the process we immersed ourselves in has made us. We can then move on to what is next with more energy, more tenacity and more love to give than we would otherwise have had. It is this growth that is the true reward. It might look like a race shirt or finisher's medal or a PR... these are guises for the true reward we are chasing and experiencing. We can only do it Real Slow.


  1. there are lazy, tired, don't-wanna-do-it, days within a training cycle, but like everything in life, it's those better days/runs and times when one has 'reached a beacon' which makes it all worth it...well, at least for me.

    hope you are able to get out there soon!

    Very nice, thoughtful post!

  2. Great post, Sean. Love the running as gardening metaphor. Wish I had thought of it...

    Hope your ankle recovers well!

  3. I'm fighting the same dilemma with yoga right now. During ironman training I totally got out of the habit and let the weeds run wild. Now it's time to clear the mat out of the garden and start stretching again to make for a flexible and fast 2012. Good luck!

  4. This was a great read. I am a novice runner compared to many and only just did my first half-marathon. I did well until it kicked my tail. I have weeds for sure.


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