My stomach was bothering me today. I wanted to go out for my run, but I’ve been doing this running thing for a long time. I know it’s a mistake to head out the door with a stomach ache. You’re just asking for trouble. While I reflected on that, I came up with a few other things that I’ve learned in my time running that . . . change everything . . . if you take the time to learn them.First, you can’t run when you have diarrhea. I know this seems like an odd thing to begin with, but it is true. You can’t run when you have diarrhea. Or another way to say this is that you can’t simultaneously keep diarrhea inside your body while running. With some real effort, you can train yourself to keep the diarrhea from explosively erupting if you really concentrate. But, honestly, it’s just easier to walk until you’ve found a more appropriate place to let it out. Perhaps more importantly, diarrhea is a stand-in for many things that keep us runners down. Like the proverbial thorn in the lion’s foot, there are just some things that keep us from doing what we intend to do. Sometimes you just have to stop and walk, let the shit out, and then continue on with your run. Shit may get in the way of our dreams in the short-term, but you will one day conquer it if you keep after it. It ain’t pretty, but that’s life.
Second, people that don’t run will never understand why we get so excited about running. I’m personally not sure why people get excited about reeling in a big fish. I don’t enjoy tracking down a tough software engineering problem. I may never get excited about birthday parties, large trucks or bowling alleys. We’re all different. We like different things and we get excited about different things. Running is our thing and they will never get it. It doesn’t matter if we’ve shaved 31 minutes off of our life-time PR or just found the perfect pair of shoes for running in mud. It also doesn’t matter if we’ve run 50 marathons in 50 states or done “a real bitch that nearly killed us.” They still won’t get it. And that’s fine. The important thing is that we are happy, fulfilled and joyful. All of us. It’s about acceptance and allowance. Let me run in peace and I will let you fish in peace. But please don’t try to force me to come fishing with you and I won’t make you run with me.
Third, it isn’t the distance that matters, it’s the effort that we put into it. People ask me all of the time why I would “bother” running 5K road races. People have also marveled at the fact that at times I have logged forty or fifty miles of running and walking in a day on marathon courses. You can pack a lot of effort into a short distance. It’s not the quantity of miles, it’s the quality of the effort. We decide where we focus and it’s our attention that makes the experience meaningful. There are times when we really need to focus. There are times when we have to muster all of our energy and put everything into it. At those times, do it and don’t get distracted by anything else. There are times to slow down and relax too. It’s not about the things we do, it’s about how we do them.
Fourth, the first time you do something is just practice for doing it better the next time. The reason that runners run the same routes and do the same races is that they have learned that it gets better with practice. Runners often say that they will “never do another marathon” or Ironman or whatever. Those words are a reaction that pop out of the brain before they have had time to digest the experience. A little bit later on — the amount of time varying from runner to runner — they will come to believe that they could do it better the next time around. This is why we humans get better at things. We learn from our mistakes. Runners make plenty of mistakes and learn plenty of lessons the hard way. We aren’t deterred, because we are engaged in learning. Sometimes we will screw things up the first time, but give us a few chances and we will eventually get it right.
Fifth, running is a dirty, sweaty, smelly, slimy, salty, shit inducing experience that occasionally causes us to throw-up. The key is simply to take a shower quickly after you run so that other people don’t have to be dragged into the experience with you. And, if you’re hanging out with runners, watch out so they don’t puke on your shoes. Thankfully we can be dirty, sweaty, smelly, slimy and salty and none of that has to get in the way of finding the joy and meaning in it all. Wait, am I writing about running or life in general?
I hope you find the joy and meaning in your run.
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running-Advice.com / RUN Time Life