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!