For a multitude of reasons which I will refrain from listing, for they only serve to make me sound whiny, today was a very very bad day of running. And yes I’m eating chocolate cake while typing this in a valiant effort to ameliorate my mood. Through 3 years of training and racing I’ve been fortunate in that aside from a fall on the ice I’ve never had a really bad run before. To be sure I’ve had runs that I wasn’t happy with, runs that have left me wanting more of myself, but today was decidedly different. While a Runners’ High can leave an athlete feeling exalted if not downright superhuman, today I was left confronting my all too mundane mortality.
There’s not much I could have done differently today. So with that in mind I am very proud of what I was able to accomplish. But the fact that there wasn’t much that I could do also renders me helpless in the face of the reality that currently stands before me. Daring me to deny its existence. That there will be bad runs.
Tennis legend turned commentator Chris Evert posits that as a tennis player ages there will be lapses in the athlete’s level of play that were heretofore unheard of. And that moreover those lapses come more and more frequently as time, relentless and resolute, marches forward. Evert’s arch rival and greatest tennis friend Martina Navratilova once iterated of these lapses, “When you’re 21 or 25 you had a bad day. But when you’re 32 it’s because you’re too old”.
But what if you’re approaching 42? And even at that there are many highly successful and competitive athletes whose age dwarfs my own.
At a more mature age there will be more demands of the psyche, of the mental toughness that only comes with time. It is perhaps Father Time’s greatest gift — that of wisdom and psychological fortitude. As one’s physical prowess diminishes, the brain takes over to push us forward and to help us to continue to succeed at what was once performed with relative ease.
Today I relied on my brain. It told me to pace myself. It encouraged me by reminding me of how much I am capable of. And today my brain helped get me home.
Wheezing, diminished, and now at over an hour after the end of my run still feeling light-headed, my brain helped me fight.