Excitement And Dread: A Running Paradox

AJWs TaproomEarlier in the week, I was chatting with a runner I am coaching for this year’s Grindstone 100 Mile. Given that the race is now about three weeks away, she is at the apex of her training. This week, she is doing her key hill workout of the cycle: 12×1000-meter hill repeats. When I asked her about how she felt going into the workout, she replied that she was feeling “a mixture of excitement and dread.”

This response got me thinking of how many times we feel these conflicting emotions in our running lives. Whether ramping up our training for a big race or simply settling into a hard training block, often our excitement for the process goes hand and hand with a fair amount of dread at the prospect of putting out such a hard effort.

Indeed, I expect my runner to get back to me soon with an update on the workout in which she shares the facts that she lost feeling in her arms, had the taste of blood in her mouth, and was about two seconds away from puking after each repeat. Certainly, for any of us who’ve trained hard and stretched our bodies’ limits, we know those feelings.

And yet we also know the excitement that comes from that very same experience. We know the inherent value of putting in the work as well as the potential for great reward at the end of a seemingly debilitating training block. It also reminds me of the extension of this paradox to our daily lives. I can think of countless times in my job, as a dad, and as a runner when this duality has stared me smack dab in the face. I think, in the end, the most important thing we can do in running and in life is to embrace and accept the paradox and allow it to make us better and more complete. In that acceptance comes contentment.

Life is often filled with challenges we don’t expect and don’t care to repeat. Therefore, it is my feeling that in preparing for those challenges it makes sense to set the stage for them by controlling what we can control and digging into those dark places when we can. In that process, we can often summon the strength and courage to exceed expectations in all aspects of life. And, if doing that brings us to the edge of collapse and utter exhaustion, then so be it!

Bottom up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Warren, Vermont. Last weekend, in fact, I had the chance to travel to New England’s Beer Capital and was able to get my hands on Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine IPA. Dubbed a “tropical vacation in a glass,” I could not believe the balance and complexity of this great beer. Talk about a revelatory paradox!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • When preparing for a run or race you care about but that you know will be difficult, do you feel both excitement and dread? How do you deal with that conflicting emotional environment?
  • Have you ever felt so much dread for a run or race that it was almost handicapping? How did you get past those emotions and get to the start of that effort? And did that dread eventually give way to pure excitement?

There is one comment

  1. @NedBarrett1

    There are of course lots of these paradoxes in running (ultras). There's love/hate, expressed as "WTF? I'm never running again." There's the intense desire to stop and the (one hopes slightly at least) more intense desire to finish. And my favorite, the mixture of catatonia and euphoria when you cross the line.

    Good stuff, AJW. Thanks for provoking the line.

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