As a new year approaches and with it thoughts of possible races to partake in, new trails to explore and adventures to be had I reflect back on this past running season. I feel from a running standpoint it was a successful one for me as I took on and completed more challenging races then my previous year. As I hope to continue this trend in 2016 and improve I need to work on all aspects of my running. One of the things as a trail runner I encounter plenty of is mountainous terrain. In fact many ultra races are established within this type of environment so it pays for one to be properly prepared. Although I’ve completed seven ultra races ranging from 50k, 50 mile and 100k distances these last two years I am still a newbie to the sport with much to learn. In his article Training to walk for ultra, trail and mountain running , Ian Corless explains why walking it is not only o.k. and not a sign of weakness, but should be a part of any runners racing/running strategy. For those who have many years of racing experience under their belt I feel they still might get some new insights or at least reminders on how to approach, plan for, train and execute hill climbing. I intend to try and employ what he speaks of as much as possible into my running as so should you.
As I watch a public television program on Albert Einstein I decide to do an internet search on him and quotes he is credited to have made. There are quite a few and some I have heard of before. But a number of them I was unfamiliar with and one in particular grabs my attention. Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. The more I read and consider this compact, seemingly simple sentence the more I realize it is packed with meaning and implication.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for years. One of my biggest obstacles to managing my illness was simply accepting the fact that I could not conquer, squelch or obliterate it. To make it go away forever. That was always my foremost desire. As I repeatedly fought against my illness I would continually step backwards on the positive steps I had slowly made over time. When I finally accepted that this illness is very likely to be with me for the rest of my life it reframed my situation. Instead of looking at it as something to get over or to conquer it became something to accept and figure out how to live with it. By accepting this I stopped fighting it and knowing my limits with this illness allowed me to make better progress.
This same statement Einstein said can be applied to running. I like many other runners set goals for ourselves to achieve. Shoot for PR’s (personal records) and the more talented in our mist go for FKT’s (fastest known times). We compete with others during a race and compete with ourselves during our training runs and even with others through computer apps like STRAVA. Always pushing and striving in an effort to do better. But sometimes this narrow focus can lead to negative consequences. One can get hurt, become burned out or fall into a rut . When we don’t continue to make the progress we’d like we need to step back and reassess. As Einstein accurately stated we all have limits and once we recognize them then we can accept them for what they are. This doesn’t mean one has to give up and believe things can’t improve. However one can start to get a clearer picture on how to adapt and change to work with these limitations and in doing so we may in fact then get beyond them. For instance when I decided I was going to try my first 50k I realized I needed to get better at running hills. I ran my first trail marathon prior to this. It was grueling and it reminded me of the feelings I had when I ran my very first road marathon. I knew I’d be dealing with running more elevation and I did train for it. But the result wasn’t quite what I hoped for. I had the opportunity to ask runner extraordinare Max King ,who lives in my town and leads a weekly running group, how do I get better at running hills. His succinct response, “run more hills.” Sounds like stating the obvious. However to get better at something you have to do more of it. Up until then I had been increasing my hill work but not nearly enough. I also had a mental barrier to get over as I dreaded running hills. Once I came to terms with this and fully embraced the hills, then I began to make progress. Although I believe hills are still a weakness for me I am now running them with much better authority.
Learning to take a new perspective and try things differently can make a difference. Einstein would figure out new ways of looking at things to help solve his problems. Continuing to do what doesn’t work is futile. Have the courage to look elsewhere. By acknowledging my limits in running I am able to again continue with improving. One must realize one has limits and can’t just will themselves beyond them. One must first identify what their limits are and then take the time, effort and perseverance to work on improving them. This will allow us to start to move beyond them. Thanks Albert!
I along with some 40 million other adults in the U.S. Suffer from anxiety and depression. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health) It’s a debilitating illness that has no easy answers or solutions. Just a constant battle in which I at times feel I am either winning or losing. But whether I happen to be on one side of the spectrum or the other or somewhere in between I know it’s ever flowing and changing. When I’m doing well, feeling generally good, you know a happy person, I tend to forget that this stasis is only temporary. Sooner or later it will start to go the other direction. And when I am at the other end, suffering a severe bout of the illness it feels like it’s going on forever. Over the years with the help of others I’ve developed coping mechanisms that I try to employ and help me along these turbulent seas. About six years ago I realized exercise was quite beneficial. It helped lesson the depressive episodes, made anxiety a bit less severe and in general helped me cope better. I soon turned to running regularly as this was my favorite form of exercise. Doing something I enjoy helps make it more likely that I’ll stick to it at a regular basis for the long term and thus be beneficial to my well being.
But today I struggle. I struggle to get myself outside for a run. In fact it’s the third day I haven’t run or done some excercise and during the last two weeks I’ve not been very consistent. I currently find myself in a place where my mental illness is getting the better of me and this makes everything in life more challenging. Work, family, daily chores and tasks and even going out for a normally pleasurable run all become more difficult to accomplish and deal with. This includes doing things to help myself through this current upsurge in depression and anxiety. So here I sit wanting to be better but feeling helpless in doing anything about it. I share this with you because the majority of the population does not suffer from this mental illness and yet some 18% of you out there are in the same boat as I. So to that 18% of you I say if you are in a bad state right now please hang in there and cut yourself some slack. You are not alone and you can get out to the other side in time. To a place where you are not feeling so overwhelmed and where life becomes more tolerable and even pleasant again. For those of you who don’t fight this illness please be considerate to those who do. It’s a hard illness to comprehend if you yourself don’t suffer with it. It’s important to give support to those that do. Even if you think you don’t know anyone who suffers this mental illness in reality you probably do and definitely come in contact with them. To put it into a runners perspective in Western States there are 369 participants in that 100 mile race. This means some 66 of those runners suffer from anxiety and depression. So in all likelyhood you’d be rubbing shoulders with, pass or are being passed at some point with a runner with anxiety and depression. So many of us suffer and it needs to become more visible and accepted by the general public. Too many of us suffer in silence and that needs to change. Although I really don’t want to I feel myself needing to go for a run. See you on the trail.