In It To Grin It :-)
A few months ago I decided to train for a half-marathon. This past weekend I ran the race. Here are some things that came out of the experience that I hope you’ll find worthwhile. Just replace "running" with "life-ing", "runners" with "humans", "the race" with "my day", etcetera.
“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”
That quote is attributed to comedian Joan Rivers. I love it. When I’m running I try to smile. It feels good, and subversive. Sometimes I have to fake it. It still feels good. My step picks up. The effort feels easier. And I like that it might confuse people passing me in their cars. Why is that guy smiling? Runners aren’t supposed to smile. When I’m running sometimes I realize I’m taking it awfully seriously. That realization in itself makes me smile.
“Smiles per mile”
I knew I didn’t want to care about how fast I ran, I wanted to try to enjoy the experience. Part of me still wanted a metric to track. Thinking about speed I thought of “miles per hour”, then that turned into “smiles per hour”, and that turned into the rhyming “smiles per mile”. I think about that phrase/metric when I’m running, as in “am I at 3 smiles per mile? Better get one in now to raise my average.” Again, I will fake smile. It usually immediately turns into a real smile because of how goofy it is. It felt like an epiphany to realize that “smiles per mile” (or “smiles per hour”) could be a general life goal.
“In it to grin it”
For the race, in an effort to keep things light, I decided to wear a Hawaiian shirt. This made me rather conspicuous among the participants. There were some spectators along the course and some of them popped up in multiple places having driven from point to point. Around mile 10 a recognizable one called out to me “Alright! Still smiling this far into the game!” I wittily called back “Yeah! I’m in it to grin it!” … or at least I did so in my mind, because I didn’t think of it until about 10 seconds later, when I was already far past them.
When I mentally committed to training for the race I found a simple beginner training program online and printed it out. This was the kind that says “on this day, run 4 miles; on that day run 6 miles” and that’s it. No intervals or speed work, no timing anything. Before I found that I had downloaded a comprehensive Nike app with videos and timers and… I quickly got so overwhelmed I almost quit before I even started. Thankfully I downshifted and found my groove. I wanted less tech. My entire training program ended up being one side of a single sheet of paper.
Craving structure with less wondering what to do
The schedule paper was hung up in the kitchen where I would see it often. As I went along I crossed days off on the paper and I could see the progress. It felt good. I never was in doubt about what I was doing that day. I woke up and I did it. Or did nothing. Some days I wanted to run but it was a rest day. This was also good. I ran when I was supposed to run, I didn’t run when I wasn’t supposed to. I actually think this habit helped me with my work life and my personal life. It felt like everything ran in an orderly way.
The training program has days marked as Cross Training days. What is cross training supposed to be? I found websites that said it should be swimming or biking or an elliptical machine. I really wanted it to be yoga. I kept looking at different websites until I found one that also listed yoga as a possibility. I want to think that even if I hadn’t found a website to validate my desire I would have still done yoga as my cross training.
Sometime early in the training program I came to believe that the purpose was not to do well in the race, the purpose was just to do the training program. Really commit to it. If I did that, the race wouldn’t matter because I already met my goal. I won before I started. I could miss the race entirely, drop out partway, walk it, or whatever. In other words, the race wouldn’t be a performance, it would be a victory lap celebrating having completed the training.
For 11.5 weeks of the 12-week program I thought the race was going to be on a Saturday. It was actually on a Sunday. There is probably some kind of a lesson there. What is it?
After crossing the finish line there were snacks. I had an orange. It tasted so good.
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