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Sometimes You’re the Windshield, Other Times the Bug

For as long as I’ve been running, you would think that I’d know by now that some days are good and some are bad. It’s as simple as that.

And yet, even just this week, I had a bad running day and it pissed me off, made me question my fitness, and caused me undue strife. Sure, I recognize the signs when they are obvious–not enough sleep, poor dietary choices, or a little too long of a night at the brew pub. But sometimes a bad running day can hit us out of the blue. In either case, it’s frustrating and it eats at me on the inside.

Then, there are the good days, which typically follow hot on the heels of the bad ones. These are the days when running feels effortless and things are all unicorns and rainbows. On these days, I am filled with self-confidence, joy, and wonder at what my body can do. I usually feel like I can run forever. Of course, these days often coincide with when I’ve eaten and slept well, and left the brew pub early, right? Then again, these good days can feel random, too.

The eternal question here is what really makes the good days good and the bad days bad? Put another way, why are there days I am the windshield and other days I am the bug? It can’t be as simple as rest, diet, and moderation, can it? There must be more to it.

I have spoken with dozens of other runners and the general consensus is something like, “That’s just the way it is, I guess.” But, is it though? Is it as simple as fate, dumb luck, or some mixture of both? I rather like to think it’s in the mind.

For example, last Tuesday morning, I set off for my daily hour and immediately felt out of sorts. I was slow and lethargic and my mind wasn’t into it. Eventually, about 40 minutes into the run, I snapped out of it somewhat. Even after I’d finished and got back into the warmth of my house, I still felt oddly unsatisfied. Sure, I was able to enjoy the physical benefit of an hour outside doing what I love but the emotional and psychological boost just wasn’t there. On this day, I was the bug.

Then, the very next day and in nearly identical conditions, my run felt effortless. The moment I strode away from my doorstep, I had a spring in my step. And within five minutes, my mind was blissfully wandering away from the sound of my footfalls and out into all kinds of verdant directions. Returning to my house an hour later into the rising sun, I was besieged with positive emotion and felt like I could run all day. I was now the windshield.

Perhaps the beauty is that mystery? Maybe the real answer lies in deliberately opening up the mind (and possibly even the heart) to what the day gives you, making yourself vulnerable to whatever that is, and simply acknowledging, without any attempt to discern why, that some days you’re the windshield and other days you’re the bug. Come to think of it, there may ultimately be enduring comfort in that.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Ozark Beer Company in Rogers, Arkansas. Their Cream Stout is simply delectable and has become a perfect companion to these longer and colder nights. Weighing in at a modest 5.3% ABV and tasting toasty and pure, Ozark really nailed this one. And it’s even available in cans!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • When was the last time you had a bad day running? Were there clear reasons for it, like a lack of sleep, too much stress, or eating poorly? Or did the bad day come out of seemingly nowhere?
  • Can you describe your last really excellent day running? Did it happen randomly or what led to it?
Andy Jones-Wilkins: finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.

View Comments (5)

  • 1st Quarter moon, Neap tide, Sun and Moon working at right angles to each other, cancelling out each other's influence. Lethargy results. Nothing you can do about it. Wait for the Full or New moon's influence to put pep in your step, AJW!

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  • Usually I am able to figure out a bad run from a good run if I ate beans or not the night before.

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  • These days it seems people need to be comforted/comfortable all the time. They need and seek validation in nearly everything they do. If they run, they need to "feel it", and if not they quit. It's windshield all the time or nothing.

    To me, one of the appealing things about running longer distances is that it's going to suck sometimes, or even often. The beauty comes from struggling through while being patient for the good times we know will eventually come.

    I say this as someone who's struggling with rebuilding my base again after a bit of a layoff. It's often really hard to get out the door and sometimes my legs (and other life commitments) just don't want to cooperate. In short, I'm often the bug lately. But I do try to remind myself that this stage is only temporary, that my body and mind will adjust, and I'll be back to to feeling fleet of foot again. Until then it's good to know others go through the same challenges.

    Thanks as always AJW for your Friday words of wisdom.

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  • I have a saying: I can't say that I've enjoyed every step of every run I've ever taken, but I can say I've gotten joy out of every step of every run.

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  • What makes the good days good? Simple: The bad days. For if we only had good days, would they really be good anymore?

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