Aha. Insight.

I think I just had an “aha” moment.

I’ve been reading the book,

    Running With the Mind of Meditation

, by Sakyong Mipham. I am only on Chapter Four, which is about motivation. It just so happens that I had also started a guided meditation program using the app, Headspace. Number Four comes into play there too, as today is my fourth day in a ten-day program.

Funny.

I purchased the book because as I prepare to move to Russia, I have been thinking a lot about my running. My thoughts are not so much about why I run, but how am I going to run while I live there. There are the logistics, of course – will the trail be safe or will I have to stick to the neighborhood and gym (please, God, no), when will be a good time for me to go, how on earth am I going to handle the winter, etc. – but there is also the training process. Do I continue with heart rate, or do I step up the intensity? Why worry about it anyway? Why should I even be concerned about training? Do I have to? Well, personally speaking, yes. I’ll explain that in a minute. For what will I train? I am not yet sure. I know what I would like to train for – a particular mountain race – but so far I am not getting much support on that at the family end, so perhaps I need to set my sights on something smaller, something seemingly less daunting in my family’s eyes. Or whatever. Why should it matter which race I pick? The race matters because, whatever my goal is will establish my training plan. If I set my goal to simply focus on the 5ks put on by a group called ParkRunMoscow, for example, my training will look a lot different than a program to prepare for a mountain marathon or ultra.

Here’s where the “why do I have to train?” question comes in. As a runner who has been solo for virtually her entire running life, I often poo-pooed the apparent hyper enthusiasm for racing in our (or any) running sport. Why should I want to race? I don’t really care for buckles and medallions anyway. I am not all that competitive. I just want to run. Why do I need a race to motivate me? I am not so much a goal-oriented person; I’m a process-oriented person. Why should the purpose of running be to compete in a race? Seems so egotistical and narrow-minded.

That is what I used to think. My mind is changing now.

Before I ran my 50k in May, I never really trained or paid attention to strategies or running plans. I sort of followed plans for my two half-marathons, but not really. To follow a specific plan seemed so driven and ambitious. I don’t like to think of myself as an ambitious person (even though, trust me, if I’m passionate about something, I can be doggedly relentless). For the 50k, however, I did train. Not rigidly – I like to say I was more focused rather than disciplined – but I did try to follow a general schedule, paid close attention to advice about heart rate, pace, eating, breathing, etc., and developed a few mantras to guide me when the going got tough. I found that, over time, I began to thoroughly enjoy training for the race goal. It wasn’t the goal so much that made me enjoy it, it simply was the process. My goal was merely the motivator to get me to train. Running the race successfully made me appreciate the training process even more.

Since I finished my race, I’ve been floundering. I am running, of course, but I am not running with the same focus or intensity as I had while preparing for the 50k. I find myself desperately wanting a race to set my sights on so that I can have a purpose to my training.

The race itself, however, is not the purpose. It is just a motivator and a helper.

Does that make sense?

I see a need within myself to race, not because I need it as a purpose to define myself as a runner, or as a purpose because I feel the need to compete, but because I see the value of racing as a helper to what I view as the real purpose of my running: training.

Setting a goal is not the end-all; crossing that finish line is not really what I am about. Developing the strength and fortitude to get out of bed to run, spin, do yoga and strength workouts, and push – that’s what I am about. I am finding that, in order to get the most out of all that, I need a goal to reach for. Why? Because that goal will at least partially dictate how I will train. I can visualize my goal and then visualize how I will go about achieving that goal. I can work to make the visualization reality and, in the process, I can exert myself so that, as I work, I can be transformed.

It’s the transformation that goes on while preparing for a race that is my purpose; not the race itself.

Aha.

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