7 for 7: Philosophy

I must be very deep in thought at this moment.

Running philosophy. Man, is that a big topic to bite off, or what? It goes without saying (but I’m going to anyway) that there are plenty of philosophies on running out there. You have your “I just don’t get it” crowd, the bare-minimum amount of running fitness people, and the “can’t live without it/running is life” hardcores. There are even running philosophers: “Would you consider this workout an existential experience or more Socratic in method?”

My personal philosophy on running guides my approach to the sport, and it took me until this year to really put things together. I’m not going to tell you I came up with this totally on my own – Mark Twight’s articles on http://www.gymjones.com helped me pull together a decade worth of random thoughts. My running philosophy is based on a single premise: elitism. But it is not an “I’m better than you” brand of snooty country-club approach. My elitism looks like this: I’m better than me.

Confused?

Think about this…contrary to what we’re told from youth onward in order to build a healthy level of self-esteem, not everyone can be a winner. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. There’s one first-place, and that’s where the elite finds himself if not often, then at least occasionally. To put myself under the microscope, I will never be an elite runner. You won’t see me winning Boston or chewing on a gold medal. Ever. I might climb the age-group rankings or someday the masters, but there will always be that caveat. Bummer. That’s just how it is, but this is the break point between mine and what I feel is the average attitude.

While actually being elite is beyond 99% of us, the elite mindset is something we can all share.

It is the endless pursuit of a better you, and a focused effort towards achieving that goal. Your non-elitist is the first to casually toss this out in conversation: “I could never (fill in the blank with and athletic feat).”

My response: “Really? How do you know? Have you tried? Have you failed? Have you picked yourself up and tried again?”

With great exception, the answer is no. It’s a cop-out, a lame excuse to get out of putting in any work in the first place. All I hear is laziness and/or fear. Psychologically, it’s a brilliant reinforcement for mediocrity. The response ought to be, “I don’t know if my full potential looks like that, but I’m pushing for whatever it is. I am not afraid to fail.”

The elite mind, then, is two things: 1) Willing to put in the work in order to realize potential and 2) Willing to overcome the fear of failure.

So, let’s bring this back to my philosophy on running and its foundation of elitism. As a runner, I am in pursuit of my full potential, and I orchestrate all efforts in support of that end goal. The ideal me is faster, stronger, and mentally unbreakable. The ideal me is the best runner possible at that particular place and time, and only I can judge whether or not I’ve achieved it. I work damn hard at achieving my goals, and despite having failed exponentially more times than I’ve succeeded, I continue to seek excellence. If it doesn’t mean I’m an elite, then I’m going to get as infinitely close as possible.

So, is this all well and good for me, but not really applicable to anyone else? Think you need to be “good” at something? Hardly. Elitism embodies the idea that the Journey could very well be the Destination. And (cue the chorus) it isn’t limited to running, or even athletic endeavors for that matter. But sticking to running, let me tell you how elitism fits for someone besides myself.

Most of you know my wife, Jen, ran the Chicago Marathon in October in 4:29. It’s not a particularly fast time, and she’ll tell you that herself. I firmly believe, however, that she embodied elitism in her undertaking. For example, did you know that this was her first race since high school? I also bet you don’t know that six months before Chicago, she could barely run three miles without feeling like death. With no background, no training, and nothing but faith, she set her goal of running a marathon, and doing so as fast as possible. Tell me she didn’t face a high risk of failure in this endeavor. And her work ethic? Committed, despite having do the hardest parts of her training in the middle of a South Carolina summer. Through the heat, the inglorious grind of accumulated training; even injury proved no match for her will. On race day, despite having missed several weeks of training, she put it all behind her. She went for it, and succeeded.

Inspired. It is the only word I can use to describe how I felt following her around the course on Oct 10th. While I am certainly emotionally biased (she’s my wife after all), I can honestly say that anyone who goes for it like that is an inspiration to me.

So, I guess that’s it on My Philosophy on Running, which I guess I could have titled “Elitism: Turns Out, It’s for Everybody.” I hope you found it thought-provoking, maybe even humorous. Feel free to take shots at me in the comments section…

Tomorrow, the next installment of 7 for 7: My love/hate relationship with all the crap you have to do before you actually get to the starting line.

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