Friday, July 26, 2013

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

I've been a bit of an emotional mess the past couple of days for a number of reasons (non-running related), and reading Molly's post pushed me towards penning one of my own, one from the perspective of someone who was never quite good enough to actually make a career out of running, yet still feels compelled to, well, train like it's my job anyway.


I think it's every little kid's dream to be a professional athlete (or an astronaut, or the president, or some other pie-in-the-sky goal). I was no exception, despite my mother's telling me I needed something to fall back on. Eventually reality slaps most of us in the face (at least those of us who don't have the talent to go pro), and we seek out some other passion upon which to build a career. Reality slapped me in the face (and then kicked me while I was down), but for whatever reason, I just never quite let go. That's part of the reason that, as a chiropractor, I want to work with athletes, because I am so passionate about sport, but I digress. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not hoping to magically knock minutes off my times, hoping for that call from Kevin Hanson or AlSal that'll allow me to drop out of school and run for a living. Nothing like that, I do have some grounding in reality. But I still train far more than is probably logical for someone in my position, for no other reason than self-improvement and personal satisfaction.

Going to chiropractic school full-time and still hitting 100 mile weeks is beyond anything I've done before (and I'm sure there are some of you who think chiro school is a joke, but I assure you that it's not). This semester, I'm taking 24.5 credits (and next semester is 28...I don't even know how that's possible). In general, that means my wake-up call is around 5am, then it's breakfast, run, class generally from 8am-6pm (if I'm lucky, I can sometimes squeeze in a nap during lunch), dinner, run again, and study wherever I can fit it in. On Wednesday, we had a rare break because they cancelled class for next semester's registration (I've never heard of this before getting to this school, but it's much welcomed, especially since we have classes during lab finals and it gives us a day to catch up a little). I figured this meant I could get my run in at a reasonable time. Nope, spent the whole day in the library, mapping out neurovasculature, and then finally getting out to double at 10:30pm.

So why do it? Well, as much as it sucks, especially when my alarm goes off at 5am and it's time to head out for a solo run in the pitch black (and in the winter, freezing cold), or when I look at my rapidly accumulating student loans, I wouldn't trade it. I finally found a field of study that interests me, and I can't put my life off. Additionally, I only have so long to chase PRs and be the greatest runner I can be. I was looking at the horrible schedules for next semester, and my friend commented that as busy as they are, and as much as they may suck, "This is what we're here for." And she's right...that's my priority right now. This is my career, and I'm paying a lot of money for this! School is my full-time job...I have 30 hours of class per week, plus countless hours of studying. But I also remember the words of my college coach, Kevin Donner: "Academics come first, and athletics are right below it. Everything else is a distant third." (I think this may be paraphrased from the Cornell coach's "Academics, athletics, social life: pick two" quote). If school is my full-time job, running is my part-time job (only instead of getting a paycheck for either, I get a transcript and hopefully a degree and certification for the former, and personal satisfaction for the latter). Of course, this makes my social life kind of silly...I went to the bar last Thursday for the first time in quite a while, and the one-two punch of a 17+ mile day and a diminished alcohol tolerance from not going out much resulted in a lager and an IPA being enough to get me...a bit more than buzzed. (Of course, life waits for no hangovers, and you better believe that the next day at 5am before class, I was out running a modified route that happened to end at the bar to pick up my car).

This is not me saying I have it harder than my classmates. No way. We all have our own challenges, and God knows some of them push themselves to the limit too (for example, there are people here in the National Guard...um...holy crap?). That's not my place to judge or compare, nor is that even something that's possible for me to do. This is my choice, all of it. Sometimes it feels like a sacrifice, but ultimately, it's something I want to do...and that makes it worth it (and calls into question whether it's truly a sacrifice if it's something I want). At this point, I'm used to people laughing and rolling their eyes and calling me insane, but I'm also super grateful for the people who understand (or at least accept me despite these choices...or because of these choices). So thanks, you know who you are.

And at the very least, I figure this is good practice for those lean, busy months when I'll be working my tail off trying to get my business off the ground!

19 comments:

  1. If you did less where would the challenge be? Way to go for it!

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  2. You also find time to blog, which is cool, as it allows us other serious (but subsubsub elite) hobbyjoggers to find relatable material. Anyway, you don't have to justify yourself, or your indulgence in miles. It's all good.

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    1. Thanks Alex. And I'm really stoked you're able to relate to my writing...makes taking the time to blog worth it!

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    1. True story, Drew. Thanks for the reminder!

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  4. I love reading your blog even though I am the slowest of hobby joggers! I guess you are relatable to all seriousnesses of runners.

    I love reading it because I am a fan of the sport, even if I only participate like a fat bastard Bears fan who plays football once a year on Thanksgiving in the backyard, and I like hearing about what serious runners do. It is because of blogs like yours that I know to go to the back at open corral races, and am careful at races where a longer run merges with a shorter run to not get in the way. (I can think of no other sport where the NFL players actually have to play on the same field as the fat Thanksgiving bastard.)

    I learned from you that overpronation and wear patterns are not necessarily related! THE INTERNET LIED TO ME ABOUT THIS.

    I learned from you the best way to answer people who keep asking me when I will run a full marathon, because ha ha, I totally am not, because there is no way I am running twice a day OH MY GOD GIRL, YOU ARE INDEED A SUPERHERO.

    Anyway, I love reading your blog, and Molly's, and I am glad you take the time to write it despite what sounds like a crazy go nuts schedule. Thank you for your time running and blogging about it. :)

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    1. This comment seriously made me smile (and laugh because of the fat bastard comments). Thanks!

      Lies?? On the internet?? No way!

      And you don't have to double to run a marathon! I'm sorry if I ever implied that. What I did mean to say was that despite the hype, marathoning does not need to be your big end goal, because short distances can be every bit as (if not more) challenging, and for many of us (including myself at this moment), they're a more appropriate race!

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    2. I KNOW, the internet is supposed to contain FACTS. I was shocked and awed.

      But seriously, you did not make me think doubles were required for a marathon; it is just that doubles are one example of the sacrifices runners, particularly serious ones, make to run them well, and that was what came out on that particular day because I'd also been reading Camille Herron's blog, where she says that after her first few 100 mile weeks, running became fluid and easy.

      What I really meant to say was that I am not ready or willing to make those sacrifices; I would not run a marathon unless I could do it fast enough to not be on my feet for like six hours, and doubles is just one of the ways to get there. I know there are others, but I do not want to do those either. Instead I will cheer for y'all that do.

      I mean, y'all like it when people hold signs and scream stupid things, right? RIGHT. I WILL HANDLE THIS!

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    3. Camille's awesome! I definitely would not say running felt fluid and easy after my first few 100 mile weeks though, haha. Camille puts up some huge numbers though (I want to say she's a 130 mpw girl), so maybe 100 mile weeks do feel short and easy to her.

      Actually, I have a lot of respect for people who don't run a marathon unprepared for the sake of saying they ran a marathon, so good for you for being honest with yourself. It sounds like you don't want to race a marathon unless you're able to be all-in, which is completely cool...I'm the same way. And you better believe that cheering spectators are appreciated! C'mon, you love crowd support too when you're out there, right?

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  5. What really matters, I think, is to not regret not having given it your 100%, in which case you're safe :)

    Found your blog while looking for a shore review, kept visiting for the quality of writing. You really have succeeded in demystifying the Track & Field world for a hobbyist runner like me. So a big thank you for taking time to keep the blog alive, even with your crazy schedule.

    Stay healthy, keep being awesome! :)

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    1. Thanks! Glad you're enjoying my blog. And you're right, gotta live with no regrets!

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  6. Awesome post, Becki. Getting through chiropractic school (holy crap that's a ridiculous credit load!), running 100-mile weeks, and still making time to blog and do other stuff should prepare you for pretty much any challenge you'll face after you finish school. It's very easy to get caught up in the hectic-ness of life, and it's great that you're continuing to run and train hard, even during a very busy time in your life. Personal satisfaction is the only reason you need (and self improvement never hurts either)!

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    1. Well, there'll be a pretty big challenge called "starting a business and surviving long enough to make money instead of losing it" coming up, but hopefully I'll be ready for it! ;)

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  7. Your latest blog entry made me recall my college days at Kent State way back in the early 70s - 18-20 hours of class per quarter and four days a week working the midnight-to-6 a.m. shift at Jerry's Diner. Sometimes we just do things. You go, girl!

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    1. Graveyard shift four days per week? Geez, now I feel like a slacker. I hope that diner had good coffee!

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    2. And eggs and home fries, too. A classic greasy spoon, it was an ancient Airstream trailer that had be converted into a diner. Open 24X7. Sadly, it's no longer there, and South Water Street seems strange to me without it.

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  8. Just found your blog tonight, pulling my spoon out of the internet stew and finding a bit steaming meaty chunk on it!

    i am a lapsed school track runner, who has been bitten by the running bug again, and over the course of the last year, long(ish) distance trail running has gone from a hobby to an addiction. i can totally relate to your passion. i admire your dedication, and if i ever find myself lapsing, i will take a look at your blog to give myself a kick up the backside.

    it was also interesting to read about chiropractic school. i regularly see a chiropractor (recent convert), and some of my favourite people are chiropractors (for example, art tripp, erstwhile frank zappa and captain beefheart drummer!!). i have reached a similarly interesting point in my life, where i have recently quit my job to facilitate two things:
    -finishing my long-gestated novel and trying to get it published
    -opening my own coffee shop
    BUT i am slightly worried that, with all the free time suddenly opened up to me, i will spend all day every day out on the trail!! i'll let you know how that goes. :-)

    keep up the good work on the blog. really nice to have found you.

    -ross

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    1. Great to hear you've found and are enjoying my blog! And awesome that you're getting back into running. I can certainly understand wanting to spend all day running, but do be careful...the effects of overtraining are no fun! ;)

      Quitting my job and going back to school (that is, trading an income for debt in hope it'll pay off later) was definitely intimidating. But it sounds like you understand that particular challenge well. Good luck with the novel and coffee shop! Too bad you didn't want to open that coffee shop by my school...all we have is Dunkin Donuts, and while the nearby roasters aren't bad, your guess is as good as mine as to how long those beans are sitting on the grocery store shelves! (Plus I should probably get a scale because as of now I just eyeball the beans before I grind them)

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