November was supposed to be a month devoted to slowing down the pace to ready the body for multi-day racing but it has been anything but. With my new and improved face thanks to my gorgeous moustache, women have been virtually appearing out of nowhere chasing me for miles, clawing and foaming at the mouth. For instance, Tristan aka TJ Dangles and I were running at the Fieldhouse one Sunday when the soccer moms picked up the scent. It started with catcalls but before we knew it, hoards of 40 somethings, Starbucks in hand, were sprinting ferociously after us. To make it worse the husbands, obviously threatened, took up the chase. We narrowly escaped with our lives.
Jokes aside, November has been a solid month. It was my 37th birthday, feeling closer to 57 most days. Started running further again building off a solid base from earlier in the year. I’ve been hesitant to push the fitness too much as I feel the fitness base is already where it needs to be going into the ATY 6 day in late December then further the Outrun Rare (Prev XCanada4Rare) run across Canada next June. Instead, I’ve taken the time during the long runs to work on mindfulness and mental aspects of endurance running. This is super fun for me because this is an aspect I think all runners, myself included, could benefit from most.
I could write on this topic for hours but to summarize, I’ve been smiling more these days. One has to ask ourselves what is your default. In a sport described with words like painful, hard, hurt, and exhausting we often find ourselves returning back to these thoughts and feelings when times get tough deep into a race. It should be no surprise to all of us that most of us physically fall apart to the point of calling it quits when our internal chatter starts mirroring the poisonous redderick. In my opinion, the body can only take so much when the mind is hurling garbage in the form of endorphins and hormones its way.
Alternatively, the simple act of smiling has been proven to increase a runner’s efficiency, a result mentioned in this article by SweatScience.com. Furthermore, it’s my opinion that having positive thought and attitude while running bombards your system with feel-good hormones and endorphins lowering your heart rate, percieved effort and almost making you forget you have just run hundreds of kilometres. Eliminating words like pain and agony and replacing them with feelings of gratitude and joy and reaping the benefits of this exercise is a necessity when running big miles.
In a conversation with a decorated ultramarathoner earlier this year, after he introduced himself to me he continued to tell me stories about his grueling ventures. He verbalized his experiences in great detail describing the pain and suffering that took place using phrases like “near death situation” and “indescribable pain and anguish”. Thirty minutes later after he stopped talking he asked me to share my stories, my guess waiting for stories of my punishment. Instead, I described that the last time I felt an element of despair with running was when I allowed myself to feel those feelings and dated that to be about 5 years ago. I shared with him my experiences of gratitude and the sheer enjoyment of being able to experience this life through a runner’s lens. Needless to say, the conversation didn’t last long.
I do believe that he is limiting his performance having conversations with himself and others like that. Sadly messages like these play extremely well in media and social media. On two fronts: 1 – it makes us believe others think we are gods and indestructible and 2 – it allows a heightened self of importance and dominance. Rather than raising up others, it makes others feel that they could never conquer these impossible feats.
The direction I am leaning going into my next stage is with gratitude, joy, and happiness first. There are 144 hours of running awaiting me at the ATY 6 day a month from now. I will be given 8,640 minutes to consider how terrible this pain is, or countdown the 518,400 seconds until this wretched, horrible experience is over OR I could enjoy this once in a lifetime experience and reflect just how lucky I am to be able to do what I love with those I love.