Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fear of looking down

When I was a kid I would watch cartoons on Saturday morning and puzzle over certain behaviors. For example, characters would run off a cliff or off a building and keep going until they looked down and realized there was nothing underfoot. They would then plummet straight to the ground, the law of gravity finally taking hold. I used to wonder "What if they hadn't looked down?" It made me appreciate how people can defeat themselves by over thinking what works for them.

After almost a year of dedicated running I still find myself in the same tenuous place as those cartoon characters. The idea of being a competent runner is still aspirational and even after ticking off 7+ miles on Monday I still feel that my progress will evaporate if I think too hard about what I'm doing. It sounds crazy but I sometimes feel like I've fooled myself into thinking I can run the distances that I run. That if I really start thinking about it I'll revert back to where I was last September when running a continuous mile was my most challenging goal. I think back to my previous running experience when I put off a run one day because my running partner was out of town and didn't return to the road for sixteen years. I fear looking down because I'll always see that it's easier to stop than to keep going.

I got out this morning at 4:00 AM although I still had some residual soreness from what was (for me) a long run on Monday. The air was pleasant, not as cool as the last time I did this early run, but far less humid than in August. I covered 2.4 miles at mid 9:00 pace and thought about the forces that would make me stop running and head back home for a hot cup of coffee and a warm bed. If I learned anything over the last sixteen years it's that a little suffering can pay off in big ways. I don't know if I'll ever lose that fear of looking down and seeing that I'm really not the runner I think I am. Maybe that's okay because I achieved a personal distance record this week. Things are looking up.

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