Saturday, 19 January 2013

Running Is Easy, Everything Else Is Hard

I enjoy running, and all things considered I am reasonably good at it, not great but good. I’ve run a qualifying time for the Boston marathon and for people who know a thing or two about running that’s an indication that I take it quite seriously.

If I didn't enjoy it I wouldn't do it. There are lots of other ways to keep fit and other hobbies a man my age could take up.

I would think anyone who runs regularly enjoys it. If they didn’t they would try out other sports and activities until they found one they liked; cycling, yoga, swimming etc.

So like most runners, running is the easy part for me. I’m not saying that it’s not tiring doing interval training, or my muscles don’t burn when I’m running up hills, or I like getting out of a warm bed to run 21 miles when it’s snowing - as I did this morning. But if you have run more than two marathons and you are training for your third like me you clearly enjoy it or you would have stopped.

But if running is the easy part then it’s everything else that is difficult.

I find stretching difficult.

I find it really difficult to eat the right food.

I hate all the strength work in the gym.

If I liked stretching I would have a blog about yoga and go on yoga retreats like my friend and his wife.

If I found dieting and eating the right food fun I’d have an instagram account like my friend who writes and photographs his cookery under the pseudonym “hummus boy”.

And if lifting weights and doing lunges and squats were my thing I would never have taken up running. It was boredom of going to the gym that helped me discover my love of running in the first place.

No, what I enjoy is putting one foot in front of the other as fast as possible for as long as possible. But if I am going to one day run a sub three hour marathon (my best marathon time is 3hours 11minutes), if I want to stay injury free and be able to run all my life and if want to be my best running weight I have to do all of the things I don’t enjoy.

I think what is true for my running is also true for life and is a lesson for all of us. To be good at something is easy – you just need to find out what you enjoy and have a natural aptitude for. But to be really great is about doing all the stuff you don’t like.

Every job, every activity has the bit that people think is the job - just as running looks like it is literally about your legs moving really fast but in reality to be a great runner you have to increase your core strength, increase your flexibility and build up your arm muscles - every job has the bits that no one sees but mastering them is the difference between good and great.

I want to be great at running (I want to run a sub three hour marathon). I want to be great at my job, which like running, I enjoy. But to achieve greatness in either field I will have to stop solely concentrating on the aspects I love and drew me to the activity in the first place and work more on the stuff I don’t like.

The picture today is of my wife and I after the Rio marathon having fun on the winners podium "achieving greatness".

(The original version of this blog post appears on the audio diary )

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