Running (and thinking) like a kid

As a parent it is hard not to see the world through kids’ eyes a lot of the time. Usually our role as adults is to guide them and re-direct them to see the world through the perspective which we have gained through experience. There’s a reason we are boring to them – we are grounded in reality. “No, you can’t wear a cape and ‘fly’ off the roof.” “No, you can’t eat glow-in-the-dark slime and become a radioactive superhero.” “No, you can’t shoot firecrackers behind a skateboard for propulsion.” You know, the usual. But in observing my son and his friends in sports, I noticed something we could all stand to re-learn.

My son is 10 years old. This year he decided that he wanted to learn to snowboard. It did not suit our family schedule (or budget) to get him lessons, so he was left to learn on his own for a few hours every weekend. I had never witnessed him in action, as I was either off cross-country skiing or reading in the chalet. However, he would regale me with tales of his carves and “wicked airs”. I knew that in reality he was probably spending a lot of time on his butt, but in his head he was basically Mark McMorris. He never got discouraged or lost confidence.

To you it’s the bunny hill. To them it’s Pyeong Chang.

My friend’s son is the same. Despite never actually having played football, he is such a keen fan and observer that he could “pretty much basically probably make it into the NFL”. My nephew is “basically the 11 year-old equivalent of Lionel Messi.” While watching the Olympics my son will muse, “I wonder which sport I’d like to go to the Olympics in.” Never once questioning that he might not make it.

I don’t think this is false confidence. They know that they fall and lose and drop the ball a lot. What it is is fantasy which fuels their action. They are doggedly optimistic and happy in their fantasy worlds, which is why they keep dusting themselves off. While they are out doing their thing, in their heads they are the best. They go all in with enthusiasm and joy and dreams.

I think I remember a time when I would run this way. When I was 15, in my head I was Uta Pippig (I know this dates me – today it would likely be Shalane Flanagan). I would run imagining the glory of being the fastest runner in the world. I wasn’t constrained by the boring reality of my actual split times or paltry training regimen. Fantasy fueled me and energized me and propelled me forward.

This is something I want to get back. To live and think a little more like a kid and allow my fantasies and dreams to excite me instead of being grounded in the mundane reality of my actual racing potential. Olympics 2022, here I come!

Sick Runners

When I go to my doctor if I’m feeling ill, whether I think it may be Strep Throat, Bronchitis, or some other malady, I usually say, “… and my other symptom is that my runs feel really hard.” Then she looks at me and I can see her thinking, “well, if you’re still running, you can’t be that sick.”

The thing is, with runners, going for a run is no barometer or indicator of how well everything else is going in our lives. We don’t wake up every day and decide whether we’re going to go for a run or not. That decision has been made. It doesn’t take willpower or mental energy. We don’t consider the pros and cons and then make the decision. We skip all that. We just go. That’s the only way we’re able to do it so consistently every day. We just know we are going. The only question is how the run will play out based on our physical and emotional states and the conditions. Some days obviously feel way better than others, but we don’t pick and choose based on a scale of how ‘good’ it will be.

I liken it to brushing your teeth. Once it’s a habit, you just do it. You don’t consider every night before going to bed whether you will brush your teeth or not. It’s just what you do. Missing a night won’t kill you, and you rationally know you won’t get cavities in one night, but you miss it and you feel more comfortable doing it.

So it is even when we are sick. My thinking process goes like this: “Well, I’m up. I’m making lunches for my kids. I have to get dressed and walk them to school. If I can put one foot in front of the other I may as well run.” No, these are not my ‘best’ runs. They are short and slow. But I’m pretty sure they don’t make me feel worse. Since I don’t have a decision making process, I don’t know how to decide whether to go or not. Unless I physically can not put one foot in front of the other, my default ‘habit’ is to go for a run. I also have to be extremely sick not to brush my teeth before going to bed. It’s the same logic.

I know this may look obsessive and unhealthy from the outside, but it is just two sides of the same coin. I don’t deserve kudos for having the ‘willpower’ to run every day because it takes no willpower, but I also have an ingrained habit which is powerful and hard to turn off. I have a friend who ran the Boston Marathon with walking pneumonia. Unlike some who might have thought he was masochistic and nuts, I understood. He had made the decision a long time ago. He was running Boston. How it played out might change, but the decision to run was not up for question.

So when people say “well, if you’re running you can’t be that sick” I always smile inwardly. They don’t know runners.

Still running…