Thursday, March 5, 2015

Return to "running" and reassessing reasons

How true it is that distance (and time) makes the heart grow fonder, or love deeper, or something like that. After five weeks off with a torn calf, I finally returned to running – or at least something that vaguely resembles running in its shuffling gait – at lunch time yesterday. What a thrill! Just to be out in the sun – actually, I think I could have just sat the locker room in my running gear and it would have been sufficient to relish the moment (well, not quite, there was the locker room smell, and I suppose actually moving my feet was required to feel some sort of accomplishment) that I was back in business. Two kilometers, walking the bends of the stadium and jogging the straights...

For a really good return to running after injury plan, check out this website. At least, I'm inspired by it.

Calf holding up well (at a brisk 6.5km/h). Could feel it working but no pain at all. This is on top of swimming 4km on Saturday morning, which definitely reminded me of the first time I ran 10k – the elation… Anyway, it all feels good. And one advantage I’ve realized in attempting to maintain some modicum of fitness with the swimming is that I’ve kept the exercise routine humming, which makes it far easier mentally to get back into the swing of things – going at a lunch time, waking up early on a weekend morning (especially to go swimming, in a pool, with a bunch of speedy freaks racing past me – rolling out of bed at 5.30am to go running the Salève is nothing!).

The different trail routes combing the Salève moutain...

Reassessing reasons for running

This time off allowed me to reassess my relationship to running, and why I run, and the different between running and participating in races... I realized:

1) i should really not try to intellectualize too much and figure out why i run, or rather why i participate in ultra trails and aim to successfully complete some of the tougher ones out there. When I do that, I start looking at it from the outside and it seems stupid and senseless. But when I can that to its logical conclusion, i.e. I stop competing in ultras, then my running would feel unhinged and something essential would be missing from my well-being. Yet I do not run just because I compete in a few ultras... So,

2) I feel the need to face my fears, exalt in overcoming them, and revel in the self-discovery that occurs in the process. I have found that I do this through running ultras. Possibly I could do it sky-diving or taking up accounting, but running is my outlet. This is why it is essential; this is why even if I stopped running, I would probably need to find something that would allow to experience this. It also explains why sometimes I do want to stop - but it's not running, it's stopping facing my fears, because that isn't always the most pleasant thing. Why do it? That's what I'm really wondering when I ask myself why I just signed up for another challenge... And of course, that leads to:

3) My occasional ambivalence towards competing in ultras and wishing to continually find something tougher is simply due to this desire to face and overcome fear and challenges fighting with the risk-averse mentality of staying within a comfort zone. This was important for me to understand, because when I was in the dark hole at the UT4M, all I saw when wondering "why am I here?" was the pointlessness of it, rather than realizing that that very question, at that very moment in the race, was exactly what i was seeking to overcome in competing in it. My intention therefore, in the next race, when that happens again, is to recognize it for what it is and say: "Aha, sucker, here you are! I didn't want this moment to come because it sucks, but actually this is exactly why I am here and if it didn't happen I would feel cheated in some way - so bring it on!"... Which allows me to conclude with:

4) There will always be this ambivalence, so I should just shut up and embrace it - knowing that the choice must always be the search for new challenges and confronting fear to continue the journey of self-discovery and LIVE! Yes, there is a similar journey involved in marriage and children, but they are less 'pure' (less egocentric!) in the sense that they involve relationships - and in any case, they are all not only complementary, certainly not incompatible, but even enhance one another.

Evidently it was important to me to assess why I suddenly became re-obsessed with running a 100 mile (preferably mountain) race, and then look even beyond that! I had been harboring doubts and I knew those doubts would hamper any renewed attempt at that distance... Now I know why, and it's made returning to running even better!

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