Whenever you see a successful person you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.
If you are in the world of running–or social media in general–you’ve probably seen this quote by famed Runner’s World columnist John “The Penguin” Bingham, “It’s not the finish line that matters, it’s having the courage to start.” I’m totally on board with that sentiment as well as Bingham’s positive messaging about overcoming the intimidating stereotypes of being a runner to just start running. But, the reality is, most people don’t give two shits about start lines, they value that finish photo. And you can’t really blame them. We are a culture that worships American Idol-style quick fame, winning Superbowl catches, Bill Gates-sized billionairism and the like. We are repeatedly bombarded with the idea that success is a single moment in time, involving lots of followers and, of course, mega-bling.
The above images are a case in point. These are my personal glory-filled moments, many of them finish lines (ones that I’m extremely proud of by the way), and some of them are among my most “liked” pictures to date. To the outsider, they represent success because a big goal was accomplished, a medal hangs around my neck and a smile sits on my face. But, the issue is, the finish line photo doesn’t give you the whole story. The finish line-focus gives a disembodied experience. It only delivers only an image of a final product, detached from the processes or story.
These pictures don’t tell you (but they remind me of) the following stories…
- I cried at my pre-race dinner the night before my first 50-miler out of fear that I wouldn’t make it to the finish line and that I would let everyone down.
- After completing my highest running mileage week ever (~90 miles) I felt more powerful than ever before and as if my body had finally found its sweet spot.
- While training for my first marathon in 2001, I got migraine headaches after every long run (16 weeks in a row) and had to sit in bed every Saturday afternoon to recover.
- Two minutes after diving in the warm Ohio river for my IRONMAN debut, I was kicked in the face and could taste the blood being diluted in the water around me as I went up for each breath. Nine hours later, I would pass my husband on the marathon course and upon seeing my busted lip he would yell one of my favorite compliments ever, “You are one BAD BITCH!”
- Last winter I slept only about 20 hours per week from late January-early March due to a new puppy but I completed every single one of my training miles anyway.
- At the finish line of the San Fransisco Nike Women’s Marathon I was so dehydrated that my dad had to literally carry me to the car and drape me over the back seat.
- I didn’t know how in love or in sync I could be with another human being until my husband and I simultaneously raced our first ultra-marathon and I felt the shared power of that experience.
- I had a nervous stomach for a week prior to starting the Leadville Marathon. The day we arrived at our start line altitude of 10k+ feet I could barely carry my luggage up the two flights of stairs to our room without feeling like I wanted to pass out.
- On an anniversary trip to Bryce (& Zion) Canyon, we were so far removed from civilization on our training excursions that I got to experience the raw freedom of naked trail running. I rarely felt so alive as running through the wilderness like that.
- While training for Louisville IM in the summer of 2009, I had a heat rash that took up residence on my left quadriceps for three months due to so many hot outdoor bike hours logged.
In a world of such intense quick-scroll social media, we miss the back story to so much. Today, I start a new training season that will be my longest ever = 365 days. I will be training for something I’ve never done before–six ultra-marathons that will take place over six back-to-back weeks. I want to share this process. I want to give you my back story–good, ugly, meaningful or otherwise, because I believe that process can often be more powerful than product. By sharing more of what happens behind the scenes to make a big day(s) a reality, I hope to shed light on the false notion that we just wake up one day as a successful person—or one who can go out and run 50 miles at a time.
Those who run long are not freaks of nature. We are not a handful of chosen ones blessed with indefatigable muscle or indestructible cartilage. Nor do we have indomitable willpower that others lack. If anything set us apart it is a kind of sensitivity. We can hear a faint chord vibrating on old and brittle strings. It begins to resonate through us when we rise predawn for a morning run. The sound builds the longer we stay at it. On a long run through the mountains our attention becomes focused, in tune, automatic. Each footfall and each breath synchronized with a primal tune. Ours is a recreation of once necessary dispositions.
-Eric Grossman, from Rentless Forward Progress
My first step has been mapping out a rough training calendar for the next 52 weeks. I’m starting the new training season after a lot of rest from running. In the last two plus months my body has been asking for many hours of sleep and I haven’t pushed myself to do anything workout-wise. I’ve listened to what it wants (after beating myself up for the first few weeks of feeling “low”). I finally feel fresh and ready to begin. For my first phase of training of about three months, I will be working on building up my weekly running mileage with little to no intensity, except for any anaerobic running I do via coaching practice. I will also be focusing on increasing my durability by upping the frequency of/ weight in my functional strength routine. T minus 365, the long countdown has begun!