Last year around this time, I was talking with a friend about the new physical activities I picked up as a result of my new active lifestyle–in particular, running. As a hypothetical, she asked, “Would you be upset if you had to give up running? Is it something you have to have in your life now?” I thought about it for a little bit, and then shook my head no. I never considered myself a “runner.” Runners are super-intense athletes who wear weird tape on different parts of their bodies, belong to a club or organization, and can easily recite their splits. I’m just a dude who participated in a bunch of races because I liked the challenge and the competition. But if you told me I couldn’t run (i.e., as an activity/form of exercise, not the actual act of moving my legs rapidly) anymore, I wouldn’t be devastated.
Of course, I then proceeded to run a ton more the rest of the year, culminating in the completion of a marathon at the end of 2015. I also started off 2016 running at an even more furious pace than I did compared to the prior year. So you know, watch what I do, not what I say.
However, I still believe in what I said to my friend last year: I wouldn’t be upset if I had to give up running. I never loved the act of running at a steady pace for extended distances (to be fair, I don’t know anyone who really does, either). Rather, I enjoyed the effects of running. One, it’s a great form of exercise, and it has played an integral role in my whole weight-loss journey. Two, it’s an incredible mental challenge–demanding your body push through its fatigue is a rewarding battle to win. And three, it’s a terrific conversation piece. Lots of girls run or are interested in running, so talking about a recent race has been a surprisingly effective topic to spur on discussion.
Thing is, if you don’t love something, eventually it’ll grow stale (even if you love something, it can grow stale–always gotta mix it up). I realized this after I ran the San Francisco Rock and Roll Half-Marathon last month. It was the first race I did a second time (I’ve done the SF Giants race event multiple times, but all different distances. Same with the Urbanathlon). A mere 20 or so seconds separated my 2015 and 2016 times. Now, that could be due to any number of factors, but as many seasoned runners will say, to improve your time, you must train differently (e.g., incorporate speed work with your distance runs). You can’t simply just run the same amount over and over and expect to get better, because eventually, you’ll plateau. I plateaued.
In order to reach the next level for anything, you need to commit the time to doing so (we aren’t all Allen Iverson). To improve as a runner, I would need to focus even more on running–otherwise, I would have to be content by ending up with the same result over and over again. Settling for the status quo isn’t in my nature, so it’s either doubling down on the running or pursuing a new challenge.
I’ve decided to pursue a new physical challenge. And I’m absolutely stoked to begin learning, failing, and persevering all over again.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop running altogether. I have at least two more Rock and Roll races to run this year (because I bought the 3-pack, so I’m financially committed). And if a cute girl wants to run, I’ll lace up my Asics more quickly than you can swipe right. That’s one of the big benefits of running as much as I have: I know exactly what I need to do to prepare my body to run again. But as far as I’m concerned, I’ve conquered all I wish to conquer in the running world. New worlds await!