Look Back, See Forward
Written By: Harrison J. Smith
Running has increasingly become a religion for me. I grew up in the UK playing soccer and tennis, at the equivalent of state levels in the US. I was never the "fastest”, "most gifted”, nor "explosive", if you're thinking about hum-drum stereotypes of athleticism. Regardless, I was a workhorse - who always put in a shift and was able to maintain my position on a given team. Needless to say, I love pushing myself physically, and without a tangible reason... which in retrospect, probably led to a love for running in my mid to late 20s. However, with years gone by, there are so many other facets of this sport which I have grown to appreciate.
First, I am obsessed with the mental clarity any double-digit long run provides me... which, naturally, would explain my preference for longer distances. Second, I have learned that with the right eco-system, support structure, and self-discipline, all of us can exceed both our own and others’ expectations. This became clear when I joined my first race team in Cincinnati a year ago. I was pretty much the only guy on the team who hadn’t qualified for Boston. Still, even as a newbie to the group, I was on the precipice, and found myself surprised by the fact that I could hold my own in weekly training sessions. That brings me to my final point... You need comrades to pull you up when you are down, and be accountable in relentlessly returning the favor when others are need of some support. I love the fact that mutual suffering brings folks closer together... Besides, who doesn’t love a good post-LR hang at your local running store, shooting the shit with a couple of stroup waffles?
Despite the highs, lows, and all other paradigm shifts which have presented themselves over the years, it goes without saying that 2020 threw a spanner in the works for mankind. In the space of this past year, my wife and I underwent the following changes, amidst the pandemic: - We got married - We adopted a second dog - We moved from Cincinnati to Minneapolis - We bought a house - We furnished and decorated the new house - I started a new job... twice - We began "family planning" Given all of these life changes within 12 months, naturally my running regime suffered... and rightly so. Weekly mileage dropped... as did my discipline when it comes to nutrition. Speaking of which, my alcohol consumption has sky-rocketed - which could be interpreted as "understandable", "ridiculous", "hyperbolic", or all of the above given our current circumstance. The truth is, I'm still figuring it out. This where the most recent Harrier Journal submission from @keegancarda comes into play... Keegan's conclusion being, "I’m working on making sure I’m getting out of the door for the right reason.". I fully agree with Keegan... There is, or at least should be, so much more to my identity than "being a runner". However, that can be a harsh reality to accept when you've made such significant progress in such a short time-frame... and vividly observe yourself rapidly degrading, physically and mentally.
So where am I going with all of this? Speaking as the most mindful, self-aware version of myself, I want to iterate to all other "(so-called) washed-up", "recreational", "type A" running enthusiasts, that personally, I am striving to perfect a single philosophy heading into 2021: Balance. What does Balance look like to me? Balance is running 6 miles easy (at 8 min pace, specifically) and calling it a day without feeling guilty. Balance is taking a rest day, because either my mind or body is telling me to do so. Balance is cutting my weekend long-runs, because I have more important aspects of my life which deserve my full attention... such as spending quality time with wife, taking my dogs to the vet, or Face-Timing old friends in the UK. Without fulfilling and embracing these personal commitments, alternative hobbies, or perhaps, just holistic responsibilities, I believe no runner can become the best version of themselves... be it on or off the track. Because let's be real...