Why do you do that to yourself?

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By Lou Bevacqui 

The glare of florescent lights is blinding as my eyes strain to make out the man standing over me in a white lab coat. Crap. I’m in the hospital… again. The man in the white lab coat is obviously a doctor, and now that my eyes have adjusted, I can see his critical gaze. “You may want to consider not doing this again,” he says, shaking his head, muttering something about CK levels before leaving the room.

My closest friend and crew member Dave stands up from his chair and makes his way over to my bed nodding incessantly as if the good doctor’s prophetic words were written on a stone tablet not to be questioned. This isn’t Dave’s first rodeo either. He loaded me on the ambulance the first time I attempted a 100 mile run two years ago, so his concern is well founded. Dave’s worried face hovers over mine repeating the same question from our first visit to the ER, “Seriously, why do this to yourself?”

Whether you just finished your first 5k on some muddy trail series, or you’re beginning your quest for the Grand Slam of Ultras, I’m sure you’ve heard a friend, parent, or loved one ask the question, “Why would you run that far?” Another oldie but goodie might be, “You mean you ran, like, ALL day?” Or probably the most common and accepted turn of phrase that we runners have come to expect, “You’re just crazy…”

Most of us have our ESPN answer on the ready – an answer we’ve memorized and mentally laminated in our brains for just such an occasion: “Yeah, it was a tough race, but I really enjoy the mental and physical challenge, and most importantly it keeps me in shape.” (As if 30 minutes in a cardio “boot camp” class at the local gym wouldn’t do the job.)

But you know why you do it. You’ve heard these questions from the one person who actually deserves an honest answer. Needs it. You.

While you’re out on those endless training runs in the cold driving rain, slogging away on gritty terrain while most local animal residents have found shelter. During those races where the last 4 miles feels like 40, and you’re more than wondering “What the hell am I doing out here?” You have your reasons for putting in the endless hours of training, monitoring every calorie, dealing with the blackened toenails. You’ve accepted the added anxiety and difficulty that your races bring to your life, while still dealing with your everyday responsibilities and hardships.

Only you know how you find the will to toe that starting line on a frosty morning when your friends and family are warm and snug in their beds. Only you know why the strong quads you develop and extra piece of cake you get to eat are just pleasant side effects of the training you put in for a greater purpose. Everybody runs for something… 

…The confidence that you are more than able to finish what you start, no matter how difficult the challenge.

…The knowledge that if finishing is not possible, then it will not be from a lack of effort or will.

…The ability to feel successful in all areas of your life by remaining consistent in your efforts.

…The distinction of what you accomplish (you must be honest, even if it is egotistical)- it is not something everyone attempts to do in their life.

…The detachment that comes from staying focused on what you can control, and letting go of the things that are out of your control: the weather, the course conditions, the common cold.

…The organization, planning, and resiliency you build as everyday life competes with your training plan.

…The trust you find in yourself through your efforts.

…The confidence you borrow from the successes you accumulate through races, while also learning from your mistakes and re-adjusting your efforts for better results.

…The courage to put yourself on the line, to stretch mentally and physically.

…The interdependence you develop with others (other runners, a crew, or pacer).

…The way you are able to deal with your fear, which is basically uncertainty of the unknown.

…The ability you have to acknowledge your feelings of doubt, and not let them become the overriding deciding factor when taking action.

…The patience you learn.

…The ability you gain to see the whole truth of a situation (“It may be a long race, but I’ve trained very well on mountains, and this course is less hilly.” Or, “It’s a hot day, BUT… it’s not humid and I will be in the shade.”).

…The capacity you gain to deal with physical and mental adversity.

…The way you are able to trust your imagination, your visualization, your habits, and your faith in something bigger than yourself.

…The mental strength you develop to keep what is going on around you from dictating your thoughts and therefore your actions.

…The ability to recognize what in the external environment reinforces or refutes the fundamental truths you know about yourself.

…The way all your training helps you realize that when you take care of yourself first, you are able to have true compassion and the desire to help others.

 

What do you run for?

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