Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To train or not to train

"You're running on guts. On fumes. Your muscles twitch. You throw up. You're delirious. But you keep running because there's no way out of this hell you're in, because there's no way you're not crossing the finish line. It's a misery that non-runners don't understand."-Martine Costello

I struggled today with a personal conundrum over balancing the search for sustained happiness in a crazy world that doesn't always see eye-to-eye with me and the confluence of my personal goals with the (sometimes wildly different) expectations of others.

One of the things that coaches and experienced athletes warn you about undertaking a serious athletic endeavor, whether it is a marathon or full distance triathlon or otherwise, is the impact that it is going to have on your life. To succeed, it is somewhat imperative to fully commit yourself to your goal – live it, breathe it and love it. If you can do that, stay sane and keep healthy then half the battle is won. Perseverance and commitment are not enough though – the support of those around you is absolutely critical. So when the people around you don’t understand why you are doing it, it makes things a little challenging.

I know that doing Ironman Canada will be one of the most excruciatingly difficult things I have ever done, and with four months of training left am not even that confident that I will be able to finish. Yet, I plug away one day at a time, fighting hard to balance work, training and life….and trying to stay happy doing it. Every week is a careful balancing act between the demands of work, training and those around me and admittedly, you start to become a little obsessive and weird. You start doing things you never thought you would do.

I am not a morning person, yet have started getting up at 4:45 am a few days a week just so I can fit in my workouts, time with my dog and still get to work on time. On rainy cold winter evenings, I still lace up and run even though I would prefer to stay inside. I have learned how to swim despite mostly hating every second of it. And the list goes on and on…..

So why do I do it?

Here is the answer only an endurance athlete will understand: it is difficult to train, but it is even more difficult to not be able to train.

I can’t sing worth a damn, I am not a literary or scientific genius and I am not going to win any races, yet I can run and bike and feel great joy from it. I recognize the limitations of my skills and will always be a recreational athlete, yet I am driven by the yearning to feel the wind at my back and experience those fabulous days when you feel like you could go on forever.

You do, however, learn to take the good with the bad. Your body doesn’t always want to cooperate – you get tired, you feel pain and sometimes it takes a whole lot of mental will to keep going. I realize this is not everyone’s cup of tea and that the prevailing view is probably that leisure time should be always fun and never painful. I could spend my Saturday mornings sleeping in or at the spa, Friday evenings out at a club or shopping. These are great activities, probably relaxing, and definitely not painful….yet in my mind not particularly rewarding in the long run. Doesn’t the bet on the table ultimately define the wealth of the victory?

Endurance racing is all about what you have in you. It’s about going until you see what you really have in your core, digging deep and pulling something more out when you begin to think there is just nothing left. It is horribly painful at times and any marathon runner will tell you that it never really gets easier (if it is getting easy then you are not working hard enough!). You never finish a race without experiencing a multitude of highs and lows or without struggling a bit and, for me, without at least once or twice thinking about quitting. But you don’t quit. You never quit.

There is a certain sense of accomplishment, and maybe even a little euphoria, that comes from the discipline, hard work and focus of training. I understand why it is not for everyone, and yet, I hope that this explains a little why it is for me.


  1. makes sense to me.

    I like to think that all the training and all the little victories over my mind and body which want to quit when things are tough prepare me better to keep on living a good life.


  2. I almost quit the Boston Marathon! Ha! Nicely written...