Strength In Numbers
Sometimes you just have to siphon energy from someone else.
What do I mean? Take this past Saturday for example. I woke up knowing that I needed to do a 20+ mile run. I’m training for the L.A. Marathon, my first ever Marathon, and I’m quickly running out of time! It’s now only 31 days away, and counting Saturday, I only had 2 long runs left to feel prepared! 26.2 miles is a LONG distance! So far, in my training, I’d only covered 20 miles 3 different times. The first time nearly broke me, but the second two were better. I have gotten to the point where the distance isn’t daunting to me, but it’s FAR from comfortable! I find that it’s easier to look forward to a 20 mile run in the days leading up to it than it is on the actual day I’m scheduled to run it! On the day of the run, it becomes a wrestling match with my inner-voice to get out the door. At my current pace, it’s a commitment of 4 – 5 hours. That’s 4 – 5 hours that I could be watching T.V., playing video games, sleeping, etc. My inner-voice highlights all the OTHER things I could be doing and points out how awesome it would be to simply do THEM, and counter-points it with how un-comfortable it will be to go for that LONG RUN! Somehow it also equates staying home with solving world hunger and going for the run as the catalyst for World War III. I’m not quite sure how those connect, but you get the point. Or maybe I’m rambling too much and I’ve lost you completely?
HERE’S THE POINT: Sometimes it’s easier to get motivated to run if you run with someone else!
For example, this past Saturday I was fumbling about preparing to go on my long run, engaging in my usual Inner-Voice wrestling match, when I looked up and saw my 17-year-old son also getting ready to run. He’s also training for the L.A. Marathon, also his first. (Also, I realize I just used the word ‘also’ too many time in that sentence, also.) I asked him how long he intended to run and he said he wasn’t sure, but at least 10 miles. Maybe he would stretch it to 15 miles if he felt good after 10. I could tell by the way he said it that HE TOO was having the SAME wrestling match! So I asked him if he wanted to join me? I let him know I was going for at least 20 miles, but hoped to stretch it a little bit further, and that I would let him know each time we reached another mile so he could pick when he wanted to double back. He agreed and we finished getting ready and headed out.
I normally wear headphones while running so I can zone out to music, or distract myself with a podcast, but saturday was different. It’s rare that I get to do a training run with my 17-year-old son, mainly because he’s like me and enjoys training alone. But this day was different. Setting out at a comfortable pace I found it very pleasant to just talk with my son. We spent the time reminiscing about how it wasn’t that long ago when a 5k felt like forever, and now it feels like just a warmup. How about this time last year he was ready to quit Spartan Races due to a bad experience but then went on to complete a TriFecta, and is looking to do a X2 TriFecta this year along with the Marathon. We discussed how running has improved our lives and how embracing discomfort has helped redefine what we see as normal. We got so caught up in conversation that 5 miles seemed to fly by. Since he had mentioned possibly only doing 10 miles, I let him know we were at 5, to which he responded with “Ok” and kept pace beside me. We ran on. More conversation went by and I let him know we were at 6 miles. “Ok”, was the response and we kept moving.
“That’s 7 miles”, I let him know.
“Ok“, he replied, still not breaking stride. I had a feeling I knew what was happening here, but I didn’t say anything about it, we simply kept running. Knowing that 15 miles was the furthest he had ever run before I let him know when we hit 7.5 miles, giving him the chance to turn back, but he didn’t.
“8 miles down,” I said. Nothing but a simple acknowledgement that he had heard me, but he wasn’t turning back. I couldn’t help but grin. “I know what you’re doing, and good for you,” was all I needed to say. I knew that look of determination. I knew that ‘rise up’ determination. He had decided that today he was going to go for broke and see what happened. Still, I called out mile 9 when we got to it. When we were about a quarter of a mile away I announced we would soon be approaching mile 10, knowing that he understood that would signify a 20 mile round-trip. What was his response?
“Dad, from here on out, don’t tell me the miles anymore.”
I grinned. He had never run more than 15 miles before but today he was committed to 20+. He had determined that he was going to be able to do whatever distance I put in front of him. No questions. No complaints. Today was the day that he wilfully entered his pain-cave, decorated a little bit, and got comfortable. I took us 11.14 miles before announcing we had reached our turn-around point. We stretched a little, took a quick picture together, then started back the way we had come.
The way back was different than the way out. As the miles built up we agreed to run our own paces. It was time to retreat to our own personalized mental spaces and deal with discomfort. We put our headphones on and distracted ourselves as we clicked off the remaining miles. At times he out paced me, taking the lead. Other times I would catch up and pass him by. After trading the lead a few times, around mile 18, I took the lead for the final time. I wouldn’t say I was running particularly fast, but he had worn down to the point where he was walking more than running. Still, he wasn’t complaining. Before I passed him we were both waiting for the same traffic light. I told him that I drew inspiration from him, that I was proud of him. He told me he did the same from me. We exchanged a fist bump, the light turned green, and I told him I’d see him at home.
Running with my 17-year-old son gave me something my normal runs didn’t. Pride. I was proud of what I saw growing in him. I was inspired to push myself more because I saw him pushing himself. I went from wrestling with my inner-voice about whether to run or not, to wanting to run further just to know that I could. If he was willing to push himself, I should be willing to push myself! Our brief verbal exchange at mile 18 had crystalized everything for me. We inspired each other. How awesome is that? When he struggles for motivation he pushes himself because that’s what he sees me doing, and when I struggle for motivation I find myself pulled along by the effort I see in him. It’s cyclical, and it’s strongest when it’s shared. Now, we won’t always run together, but that won’t stop him from inspiring me, or I from him.
When he arrived home, I had only just gotten there about 10 – 15 minutes earlier. He immediately asked, “How many miles was that?” It was my pleasure to inform him that he had gone 22.28 miles, only 4 more miles to the Marathon finish line. He was exhausted, but encouraged. Up until then he had been worried he wouldn’t be ready for the race because he hadn’t been on track with his training. But that day he had proven to himself that mentally he was ready, and his body was going to follow. On March 24th, we are both going to toe the starting line for the L.A. Marathon, and when the race begins, we will BOTH
draw strength from knowing that the other is willing to give it their all to reach the finish line, and we BOTH will. We BOTH will earn the right to be called a Marathoner. We BOTH will bask in our victory together, and we BOTH will hobble around on sore legs for days afterward, longing for our next adventure to begin!
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