So as I sit here in front of my computer today I am less than one week out from running the Med City Marathon with my barefoot buddies Katie Button-Swenson and Evelia Huack. Since running a race as big as a marathon is usually about more than just the race, I like to take a moment in the few weeks before something like this to reflect on the training that has preceded it.
To tell you the truth, up until this morning I had every intention of skipping this ritual and the reflection that goes along with it and go straight on to the race. That's because to say that I'm not really all that motivated for this race is an understatement. I come into this race having not really done much in the way of my normal training. I haven't been very dedicated to doing those ever-so-critical long runs, and the ones that I have done have been mediocre at best. I don't have any real firm goals. I didn't train with a goal pace in mind. I have been training to run the race barefoot, but I'm not going to force myself to finish that way if my feet start hurting. And even though I announced on facebook that I was going to try to run the race with a unique nutrition strategy (i.e. the complete lack of any nutrition strategy), if I get hungry, I'm going to eat something.
But yet, even though I am heading into the race without any of my normal motivation, I couldn't be more stoked. And up until today, I really didn't have a clear idea as to why. Then it came to me after I read a few blog posts from some of my other barefoot running buddies.
A little over a week ago, several of my friends completed the Mind the Ducks 12 Hour ultra marathon in Rochester, NY. When I read their race reports, I noticed a lot of the same apathy towards the actual race as I was feeling. My friend Shelly Robillard noted in her report that she had realized that she enjoys the process of training leading up to the race more than the race itself. Then, though my friend Katie Kift didn't run MTD, she echoed Shelly's sentiments in a follow-up post.
I totally agree with those feelings. I generally enjoy the journey up to a race more than I enjoy the race itself. I agree that running for the sake of running is my real goal...as is being happy while doing it. But still, this time I wasn't feeling the whole "oh man I love running!" thing. I'm not dying to get out there an do that 20 mile long run like I have been in the past. I'm not squirmy until I get a run in each and every day. I can't say that the mere act of running is what has provided me with that same sense of exuberance and joy. Yet although I'm kind of blah about this race, I'm more dedicated to my training than I probably ever have been. What gives?
It all finally came together after I read today's post over at Barefoot Running University. If you haven't read the post yet, I suggest that you do. Jason's quest to become the equivalent of a nomadic running-tutor gypsy is inspiring to say the least.
Jason been one of my favorite sources of inspiration slash man-crushing for a while now. Not just because of his epic facial hair. But also because I aspire to do some combination of: following in his footsteps, hanging on his coattails, plagiarizing him heavily, taking credit for his ideas, and spinning what I learn from him into something completely different...something with a lot more explosions, midgets, and conga lines. I want to be the facebook to his Myspace. Does anyone have a Myspace account anymore? I quit when I realized all my friends were really porn stars. Anyway, I'm not sure how that will all come together...but it will make you want to start a slow clap.
I hope you all know that I'm kidding about all of that. I have no ambition to one-up any of my friends. You never know when you'll need to mooch off them later (wink!).
Anyway, heading into this race, that same "how will this come together" thought was ringing pretty loud in my head. Why am I doing this race? Do I ascribe any meaning to it, or is it just another training run as I prepare for my first ultra marathon in September? I went through several drafts of those various aimless thoughts up until I considered this phrase in Jason's post:
"Trust that the dots will connect sometime in the future"
If one sentence has ever summed up my life, this is it. It means a lot to me that an uber-successful entrepreneur like Steve Jobs would say something like that. It pretty much affirms that the way I've been living my life for as long as I can remember. In my lifetime, I've gone from majoring in mathematics, to attending law school, to working as a prosecutor, to running barefoot, to blogging, to running ultra marathons (hopefully). Anyone who thinks that any of that came from any sort of well-thought out life plan needs to email me and clue me in...because I experienced it and I can tell you that it didn't.
For as long as I can remember, I've been doing what Steve Jobs suggested. I have been doing what interests me and that I have a passion for, and trusting that everything will work out in the future. I've always believed that if you pour yourself into doing what you love, your path will be revealed to you. That's true even if what you love isn't the same from one period of your life to the next. Whatever you do today will make you better at what you aspire to do tomorrow.
As an example of this, Steve Jobs points to the calligraphy class he took while still in college. It's not hard to see why calligraphy doesn't have any readily apparent practical application to someone looking to start a computer company. Even so, Jobs showed how it was instrumental in how Apple goes about creating their fonts for word processing today. Yet I doubt Jobs went into that class thinking about that particular benefit. He probably just took the class because it was cool and fun.
But my excitement over this race isn't as simple for me this time as "I'm marathoning because I love marathoning". I do love entering and running races, and I particularly love the marathon distance. But I could have just as easily saved the money and ran a 26 mile training run next week for the same preparation.
The reason why I'm excited to run this marathon is the same reason as why I signed up: to run a race with my friends. Katie and I have been talking about running a marathon together for the better part of a year. It will be her first marathon. And as far as I know, I've been the bug in her ear that got her motivated to put in the mileage to actually finish it. I can't wait to cross the finish line and celebrate that accomplishment with her. It's going to be epic.
My journey up to the starting line of this marathon hasn't so much been about anything that I've done. My training is pretty much on autopilot at this point. Doing this race, as well as the training leading up to it, is part of my way of continuing to do something that I love; namely, helping people achieve their fitness goals. Dots = connected.
This is the year that my friend Avery started doing P90X, and lost over 30 lbs. My friend Dave and his wife Kelly started one of those "Couch to X distance" running program, and are set to finish their first half marathon later this year. My friend Chuck just ran 5 miles for the first time ever. My friend Sarah just finished her first 5 mile race. My friend Amy just finished her first 5K. There are too many more to even list. This seems like the year to get moving!
Those are just a few of the people that have said that I played some part in their decision to start a fitness regiment. And what has surprised me the most is the way that I've inspired them. Sure, folks read my blog posts on topics like this and feel all warm and fuzzy about fitness for a little bit. But more often, I hear that seeing my frequent posts on my dailymile thread (friend me if you want!) detailing my every day fitness adventures inspired them to get off their ass. It could be that they see how much fun I'm having each day with my training. It could be that they feel guilty that I'm so awesome and they're so lame. That feeling is completely natural by the way. I am hella awesome.
Anyway, I want all of those people (and anyone who has taken inspiration from this blog) to know that the feeling is mutual. For as much as I might have inspired you to get moving, you inspire me to keep moving. I want to keep being that source of motivation for you. I want to be there to answer questions and provide support during your journey. I want to encourage you along the way at every milestone, and be there to congratulate you when you cross the finish line. Seeing you accomplish big things in your fitness careers is the greatest reward to a person like me.
I will feel awesome about my accomplishment when I cross the finish line at Med City this Sunday, whether I'm fast or slow, barefoot or shod. But I will feel even happier when I see Katie cross the finish line. She's been just killing her training, and she's going to be lean and mean on race day.
And I hope this isn't the last time I'll be able to cheer someone on to a similar victory. I want you all to know that I love getting your questions and comments. I love hearing your stories. I love to be involved in your fitness goals. You are my motivation to keep on trucking. Cheers to you citizens!