Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get Your Wings (again)

There's a state of denial to the long, insidious process of thoroughly getting out of shape. In terms of our own running, it doesn't come to us with any sense of jolting percussion, even when the performance stuns us with underwhelming mediocrity. One of the triumphal appeals of running is the sheer honesty of it. One generally gets out of the sport exactly what one invests in it. Consequently, how can it be that we can run in a local five mile road race every year, clearly see our finishing times corrode from their former, loftier summits of achievement, and yet somehow or other, we are able to personally rationalize how we are not in as rapid a decline as we actually are?

Do we confuse our hard efforts with personal performance? 'Well, I certainly hurt as much in that race today as I ever have! That was pretty good!' Are we made to be vacuously content with our distending finishing times by a consciousness of colorlessness? Where did the passion go to our training that our racing has become so vapid?

I used to run like Lennon and McCartney wrote albums ... nobody told me I was running with the rapture of Britney Spears! (I know Britney has had her problems -- but I assure you, I am giving you the milquetoast Britney at her peak as an example, okay?!?)

Some excuses are immanently more excusable than others. Our lives are not as single minded as they might had been at another time of our lives. Family, careers, and changing priorities rightly take their needed positions in our evolving lives.

'Running isn't everything!'

... but it is something!

Indeed, by 2004 I had come to the realization that the elixir of passion that drove me to excellence, not only in terms of personal records on the road but also in terms of achievement in the classroom and in my relationships as a living entity, was running. It was my moxie, my vehicle of vitality ... it was the fire in my belly that defined me, as a runner, as a neighbor, and as a person with a passion for living.

Awoken at last by a cathartic run in a February snow storm that ended so miserably premature, with legs reduced to formless flesh and lungs seared with the shame of a runner lost to years of languid noncommitment, I impossibly remembered a simple solace:

I liked to run.

I liked to run fast.

So, flabby, wet, and exhausted, it was at that defining moment that I found my wings.

(Some of my best running has been run to the internal soundtrack of one of my favorite bands, who perpetually play within the ipod in my mind's eye, so was it any coincidence that as my running improved in 2004, that Aerosmith released their most blusey rip roarin' rock record in years with Honkin' on Bobo? Just a thought.)

Okay, it's early, but not that early, and I have to go to work! Later this week, I will post some of the things I did to get back in shape!

I will leave you with this; it took more than just running!


  1. I look forward to reading the next post. Don't forget.

    As I was reading about your realization I found myself comparing running for self-perfection, or self-improvement, and running for the sake of running. One can be happy with either, you just need to choose which one of those styles defines you.

  2. John,
    Great analogy between you and Aerosmith. They too dealt with there demons and then made an awesome comeback, in the same way that you are.

    Can't wait for the next chapter of "See John Run"

    And one last thing.........

    is that nip(s) in the Britney picture?

  3. Running is truly an honest sport, I think that is a huge draw for those who are willing, and a huge wall for those who aren't. Nice post John.

  4. Hiya SneakerSister!

    I found your comment really thought provoking -- thank you for that!

    I'm not sure I agree with choosing between running for self improvement and running for the joy of running. My stance is that one leads to the other. It's not a choice as much as it is an evolution. It's cyclical, too! I think one can love racing without loving the act of running, but unless that person falls in love with the movement itself, then their racing is not likely to last. Likewise, one can run and love to without racing, but for most, for at least a certain period of time, the challenge of racing lends an enhancement and motivation to one's running itself. It's a healthy circle of self in all of its degres of nuance, in my humble opinion.

    Please stay in touch -- I loved your insight and you made my blog a better place today!

    - John E.

  5. Hiya Jaime and Tony!

    that means a lot from you too -- thanks so much!

    Check out a great blog here everyone:

    I am so looking forward to the new running blog, too!

  6. SJTony!!

    OMG!!! She is just so excessive! I was focusing more on the vapid expression, but that just lends a new dimension to it, doesn't it?!!

    Thanks for your kind words!

  7. Hey Ron!

    thanks a lot! I think running lends towads building better time management skill for those inclined to sacrifice a little for the gain of a lot! I greatly adnire good runners with balanced and mature lives -- that is truly awesome.

  8. Hmm...corroding race results from their former, loftier summits of achievement. Whew, I'm glad I don't have to live up to your past! I'm just now exploring what my body can do - the joys of being a late starter. And perhaps I do lack the competitive drive to push to the very limit. I'm just running because it feels good and makes me feel good about myself. Sure I'm trying to improve my PRs, but its not too hard given my inexperience!

  9. Little mixed metaphor there John? "play within the ipod in my mind's eye"

    As to deteriorating performances, once you accept being beaten by youngsters running what was a work-out pace in the old days, you can move on. That's one reason I love age-grading, with all of its flaws.

    And, speaking of excuses, nice one to post a photo of Britney Spears.

  10. Hi joe,

    if it's mixed then it's me!

    Being beaten is one thing -- but being beaten by your own mistakes are the most challenging ones to reckon with.

    Of course, we do move on. It's always about 'the moment' in a race or a run where one wants to excel -- and it's either there or it isn't ... the context of age and fitness are what attach meaning to it for me.


  11. Hiya Drusy,

    who's being too hard on whom? ;)

    it's like working out in the gym -- you can isolate muscles and work them individually ... and get imbalanced results that can lead to injury back in the real word; or you can perform total body workouts that work body patterns that one really experiences in the real world -- with body parts working together in functional harmony.

    So, what does that mean?! I think it's silly to isolate one's running in to 'I do it for this reason or that.' Barring some student running for a scholarship or a pro running for a payday, I think we all pretty much run out of a passion for the act of running and how we fwwl when and after we do it. Everything else, as far as I see, is just an organic but optional extension of that very act. Racing is not for all, and that shouldn't be a problem for anyone else. However, "drive" in running, as far as I am concerned, is just a commitment to consistency. The most aggressive are not the fastest over distances -- it's the ones most consistent with their preparation.

    You're quite capable of that, Drusy! AND you balance a great life on top of it and still find time to run -- THAT'S the real accomplishment!

  12. John, This runner v. racer post ultimately evolved (including with a reference to Toni) into a couple of "What Kind of Runner Would I Be?" posts. I'm curious about an old-schooler's view.

  13. Hey Joe,

    this link went to your blog, and the "races like a girl entry". Is that what you wanted me to see?

    In general, I applaud the commitment to racing, while giving respect and acceptance to everyone who does not.

    I don't know if I'm old school or not -- it's where I came from, but not necessarily where I am going. I still live in the real world, and consequently, I am happy to see anyone happier in their existance by the act of running, no matter what form it fits into their life.