There have been a number of runners over the course of my career that I have wanted to call cowards. I’ve only actually done it once and it didn’t have the result that I’d hoped. It ended up with the runner crying hysterical tears and that isn’t a good thing. But there are times that I hear runners saying, “I can’t do that coach” or “I don’t know if I can” that I want to get in their faces and tell them that they are just being a wus. “Get in the game or go the fuck home,” as my dad used to tell me.
Why do we want to push people? Because in training, as in life, you will only get to new places by taking risks. There is an expression that I hate, which I know that you’ve heard: “no pain, no gain.” There is a bit of truth in that phrase. Trying new things is indeed painful. But the important phrase to unpack here is “no risk, no reward.”
Typically when I have a runner that is getting close to the coward zone, they are thinking about something that a) I know they can do and 2) they think that they can’t. It’s in those moments that we want to explain that unless we take chances, we don’t know how far we can go. We will never know the future. We don’t know what things are going to feel like until we do them. But unless we try, then we will never know. We are, in fact, safe when we don’t take risks. Because we can hide behind the safety of our self-imposed walls. Nothing can hurt you when you hunker down behind those walls. But you won’t get anywhere either.
The ugly side of risk is two-fold. First, there is the fear of the future that is inherent in risk. We don’t KNOW what is going to happen. The fear is that we anticipate the negative, the bad, or the harm that may come to us. What will it feel like when you fail? It will feel icky. But what if you succeed? The risk is in taking the chance that we will succeed or fail. We can’t know which one will happen ahead of time, so that’s where the fear comes in. As someone very important to me once wrote on a piece of paper that is now stuck to my computer, we can write F.E.A.R as an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.
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