When things aren’t going quite so well, it helps to remember the WHY…

It’s Thursday 3rd March. I’ve been out of action for a whole week (A whole bloody WEEK!!) with horrible disgusting flu. The full mashings, too – not just a bit of a sniffle. It’s been rough, and it’s made me reflect on a few things. I went through a similar bleak spell of illness and frustrated, kiboshed training right at the start of the New Year. Here’s my diary entry from exactly 2 months ago today… I read it again, and it helped me to remember.

Diary extract from 3rd Jan 2016:

Remembering the ‘why’…

There has to be a ‘why’ for anything. Why do any of us shop in supermarkets on Saturday mornings? (God knows the answer to that one – foul places.) Why do we queue up to park virtually in the entrance when there are bag loads of spaces only another ten feet away? (lazy bastards, you say?)

Why do we run? 

When I look back over the past few months and my own internal warfare, battling on, trudging through run after disastrous run, it dawned on me. I could do with asking myself this very question: why do I run? If it’s so damned arduous and heavy-going, eating me up and turning into a stick with which to beat myself, then why on earth do I do it in the first place? Granted – those sublime, life-affirming moments (when they do arise) are incredible: there is nothing like it. And God knows, I’ve been lucky enough to experience more than my fair share of those – but that’s not reality. It just isn’t possible most of the time. In fact, the hard runs far outnumber the life-affirming ones. They can be hard for any number of reasons: tired legs, negative outlook, emotional weariness, time restraints, stress, poor nutrition, disappointing route, bad conditions, illness, getting out of bed on the wrong side… need I go on?

The juxtaposition is this: as running becomes more and more about the successes – as we feed off our own PBs, our ever-increasing collection of lifetime achievements, Strava crowns (really?) the easier it is for us to become blinded to our own reasons for running in the first place. It’s a cruel kind of dichotomy. The Ego swells with every race conquered, every step taken towards achieving ‘personal running greatness’, every medal won. It thrives on victory – of course, our own personal mini-victories the may only be – but they are victories nevertheless to The Ego. And so arrives bravado and along with it – pressure.

Self-induced, man-made, egotistical pressure. All of a sudden, we are no longer running for the beauty, or the freedom, or the simplicity of the act itself, but instead we are consumed with EGO. The need to go faster, run further, race harder, train smarter, increase mileage, drink coconut water, eat beetroots. It soon eclipses the whole essence of the very reason WHY we began to run in the first place. And then the Self-Critic climbs on board and has his two-penneth. He admonishes any ‘substandard’ performances, berating poor times or dismal training sessions. Already half dead by virtue of the kickings received courtesy of The Ego, he delivers the final deathly blow to the WHY.

And it’s been happening to me. I ‘should’ be faster going up this hill; my mile splits ‘should’ be better for this section of flat; my overall pace ‘should’ be more impressive than the stats reveal. And why? Because The Ego demands it. It needs to be fed – to satisfy it’s insatiable appetite for glory. The WHY is now David to The Ego’s Goliath. With only a lowly pebble available as weaponry to slay Goliath, the WHY has only one place to go to win the battle. It’s a battle worth having because it brings us back to the heart beating at the centre of it all. Without the WHY, we have nothing. Without the heart and the soul and the love and joy of running, we are on an endless carousel of egotistical disappointments. What’s the pebble we can use to slay Goliath? It’s gratitude..

I was reminded of this just yesterday. One of my runs I’d recorded on strava and called it “Missing my Mojo”. Out of nowhere and exactly at the time I needed to see it, a strava buddy wrote “Form is temporary – just smile and remember how far you have come and how lucky you are to be as fit as you are. The rest will then click into place I’m sure.” It was like a message from above, reminding me to find – and fight for – the WHY.

That was my pebble, and I intend on using it. Goliath will fall, and David will live to run another day, and will enjoy every second of it (well, almost…)

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