|On Black Balsam Mountain after a VERY long day of backpacking uphill for many hours. Photo courtesy of Yan Luss.|
Life is hard, and it may or may not be short.
Before I started this last and longest lasting exercising streak of mine, I would start amazing and creative endeavors with loads of energy and focus, plateau and then stop. The energy would fizzle, my mind would be numb from exhaustion, and my heart would be let down yet again.
So how is it that I am able to run marathons and ultra marathons, now? How do I stay committed and focused?
Any long-distance running (or any sustained physical endeavor) requires patience, discipline, and the ability to
- entertain yourself for HOURS,
- be in one's head for extremely long bouts of time,
- talk yourself off the ledge several times over several hours (or the edge of a crevasse), literally,
- separate mind and body, converge mind and body, eat and drink when you REALLY don't want to,
- drop your pants, pee, shake it off and keep running like it's normal...
In life you have to do the same sorts of things during hours-long boring and pointless meetings in which people talk just for the hell of it. During these meetings, you should be able to
- entertain yourself for hours (in your head while pretending to listen)
- talk yourself off the figurative ledge every time someone different starts talking
- separate mind and body
- talk to people when you really don't want to
- Ok, so you don't have to drop your pants and pee and keep running like it's normal, but pretending like what someone has just said is brilliant is pretty similar.
There are many other aspects of life that require sustained, unwavering focus over a period of time. And long-distance running, or any other physical pursuit that requires the same sort of consistent energy is very REAL but also a metaphor for every time something in life requires indomitable and unflappable spirit.
|Sunrise and fire smoke at Farlow Gap, Pisgah National Forest|
I think, I plan, I arrange music, I zone out, I sing in my head, I am in my head, I imagine that I am Scott Jurek on the hills and Lolo Jones when jumping or tripping over roots and rocks. I rejoice in the fact that I am surrounded by stunning natural beauty. I become completely engaged in the process and look forward to achieving whatever goal it is that I have set. I become present.
When doing long runs, I became acutely aware of where I am, who I am and why I am. I become tuned in to the fact that I am living, and that in order to keep living I have to make an intense effort to keep living.
This is what training for life is.
How do you stay committed and focused? How do you train for life?