It is has been a while since I blogged. It has nothing to do with having nothing to say. When don’t I have something to say? It has been about balance and focus. I’m busy and now exhausted. Blogging, like vacuuming and dealing with the mound of recyclables in the basement, is a secondary consideration these days.
Balancing things is sometimes described as a precariously long object resting on a knife’s edge. Actually, it is many of those long objects balanced on a knife edge. My running has suffered from a lack of balance. I haven’t had a wonderful run since Charlevoix in late June. I set a personal best for that race and almost every run since has been somewhere in the bottom third of what I consider fun or enjoyable. We had a terrific summer with many cool mornings ideal for running and I squandered most of them in bed or doing research for the doctorate. Now I’m paying the price. What once passed as an easy distance of eight miles feels like a massive energy drain.
Today I did my usual Thanksgiving morning tradition, a long run by myself. Last year I was a member of Team Injured so it was short and painful. This year, my membership in Team Injured is up and now I’m in Team Exhausted. I managed eight miles today. That was my plan. But one of those potentially life-changing decisions crossed my path somewhere just short of mile two.
I haven’t really felt like running consistently for months now. And I haven’t. Today I felt something I have never felt before. I felt like turning around and tossing in the towel for good. No more marathons or even half marathons. No more races. Just the occasional 3-4 mile runs which would eventually become sitting on the couch. How tempting when most runs since last year haven’t been fun or enjoyable.
But I knew that doing that would start me down an easy and seductive path (the Dark Side?) towards unsustainable health and a feeling of failure on my part. I could imagine regaining all the weight I lost in 2012 (I have gained much of it back actually) and adding more for bad measure. I could imagine seeing more and more of my friends running and me slipping into some running stupor and the memories of marathoning and beyond becoming faded as if they belonged to a past lifetime. I couldn’t allow myself to become that kind of failure so onwards I slogged out the remaining 6+ miles.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being a student-scientist and working on getting that prize of a PhD and forever knowing I contributed to the body of knowledge in my field. It keeps me going. My current job is mostly enjoyable but it too is exhausting at times. Combine the two and I wonder how I get out of bed some mornings just from shear exhaustion. Emotionally, I’m doing fine. Mentally, I’m tired and this makes me physically drained as well. So, without planning for it, my running has slipped away. I only have myself to blame.
Today’s run, while still in the bottom third on the fun/enjoyment-o-meter, was at least successful in that I didn’t toss in the towel and simply kept moving. By the time I reached the turn around point, I felt a bit better…still crappy, but better. But the temptation to quit for good was disconcerting to say the least.
I knew doing a doctorate would be tough. I knew it would be tiring both mentally and physically. But I really am feeling it for what I think it really is. Like those dreaded miles from 14-20 in a marathon, this is no-man’s land. These are the miles that moving forward at a decent clip become hard. You haven’t reached complete physical exhaustion but you don’t feel like you are making much progress. By mile 20, one is usually so high on endorphins, the crack cocaine of the body, and knowing you are closing in on the finish, that you start having positive feelings of finishing. I’m not at the crack/delusions of grandeur phase. Not yet. So I just keep going as best as I can. That, in of itself, is a form of balance.
After today’s run, I feel maybe I can regain a sense of balance for the running component of my life. Balance can be achieved by cutting out the unimportant things (mostly done), focus on what is important (again, mostly done), and blunting that razor sharp knife blade. To keep moving, to keep doing, often requires a change of pace. In the art of balance, I think a blunt knife edge is going to be easier than constantly demanding a sharp one and in consequence, losing whatever you seek to steady and maintain.
On an unrelated note, today is Thanksgiving. I have an unbelievable set of things to be thankful for. Friends, family, job, health, cats, science, and a supportive planetary science society to name a few. However, one of the best things about running is life’s concerns fade to be replaced with those concerns in the here and now, truly a Buddhist mentality. I was very thankful for upbeat music that helped push away the dark temptations to give up. The following two songs were especially helpful
Happy thanksgiving everyone! Balance your needs, wants, and belly with all the good foods, drinks, love, and relaxation today!