Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Words of Runners

This past week I had the upper-respiratory infection/cold from hell. We were coming off a long weekend, but I couldn't make myself go to work Tuesday. I never, ever take personal days, so that speaks for itself.

I did run Tuesday evening, as my congestion let up a bit, but suffered for it Wednesday. So this was a very light running week. That's okay; in the long run, over-all health and keeping the long-view in mind is more important than racking up the miles.

The African Aid 5k is Saturday...M and I are deciding whether or not to stick together during the race.

Today's blog is about the power of words.

Long before I was a runner, I was an angsty pre-teen. (I say this lightly, but only because distance and time has healed some old wounds. A post for another time will touch on depression, anxiety, and running.) During those years, I lived up north. I had a great friend who understood this angst, and when I moved out of state, we kept in touch. He was a great friend to me, but the main thing we had in common was our depression.

Over the years, I began to see that running was becoming a way for him to fight his demons. In those days, when you carefully crafted an AIM profile filled with quotes that defined you, he had only one: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Although Steve Prefontaine said these words, I think of my friend when I read them. These words carry a weight and a power in them.

They had the power to push my friend from a dark present into a bright, powerful future.

As an English teacher and a writer, of course I believe that words have meaning. We are influenced, angered, hurt, buoyed, inspired by words. When looking for motivation or inspiration, words from people who have been in our shoes are sometimes the greatest allies we have.

I've never found a single quote to define a journey in my life. I tend to love anything that will push me, in a down moment, to strive upward. But I've never found myself attached to a quote for a lifetime; I've never developed such a relationship with one that I can think of it in the middle of a run and feel re-energized.

Until, that is, I finished Once A Runner. I posted about the novel in an earlier entry. There's a moment toward the end, when the main character is training for a huge race by doing intervals, just killing himself over it, and his mentor says,
"Look, runners deal in discomfort. After you get past a certain point, that's all there really is."

Now on a run, I try to remember that quote. Because pain? Not really a big issue when my knee braces are doing their thing. Shortness of breath, tired calves or quads? Those are issues of discomfort. And I can deal with discomfort.

The friend who bought me the book also shared this excellent one from T. Alan Armstrong, who isn't a runner (that I know of) but still hits the nail on the head: "
Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character."

Simply gorgeous. So true, so necessary to remember.

The power of words - something I've loved forever - combined with the power of running (something I've just learned to love recently) is enough to set my soul alight...and send me on a powerful, ebullient, full-hearted run.

I leave you now with two more to get your feet craving pavement:

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves...The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable."
Sir Roger Bannister, first runner to run a sub-4 minute mile

"Running should be a lifelong activity. Approach it patiently and intelligently, and it will reward you for a long, long time."
Michael Sargent

What are you favorite/most inspiring quotes?


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