New Year, New Attitude

A look at how positivity leads to better running.

By on January 4, 2013 | 23 comments

AJWs TaproomOver the past few months I have come across several studies examining the impact of attitude on successful performance in academics, athletics, and the arts. These studies, from fields as varied as psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, point to the power of a positive attitude and its significant impact on emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

As a result of reading these studies I reflected on those things in my life that give me pleasure. Last week, with a little time on my hands, I considered those places of success and contentment that allow me to live life more fully and provide a positive sense of myself and of the world around me. A few days ago, on New Year’s Eve, in fact, while on a run, I made a short list of some of those things:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Camping
  • Writing
  • Hiking
  • Reading
  • Teaching
  • Eating
  • Running

I stopped my list at running. Not because I felt the list was complete nor that I thought it was a fruitless exercise, but, rather, that I have come to believe that through running I have found a path to contentment that is generative, constructive, and holistic. Certainly, all the other items on my list are important and meaningful to me in various ways, but somehow running has found a way into my soul in spite of itself.

You see, the truth is, I am not a natural runner nearly as much as I am a natural father, camper, or eater. In fact, in my early years as a runner, running was work for me. It felt much more like a means to an end than an identity-defining path to purpose and contentment. Only through time and slow accrual has running become the source of my generally positive attitude and given me the ability to view the world as a fundamentally good place in spite of all the challenges we face.

Interestingly enough, as much as running has profoundly impacted my attitude, my attitude has had an even more consistently positive impact on my running, particularly in times of great pain and hardship.

If you have spent any time at the latter stage aid stations in a 100-mile race, you have undoubtedly witnessed some serious pain and suffering. The misery that accompanies the last 30 miles of a 100-miler is about as acute as it gets. And, in many cases, negative attitudes are much more likely to bring runners down in these dire circumstances than are sour stomachs, trashed quads, or blistered feet. In these occasionally life-altering experiences, the buzzy excitement of the starting line and the heady whirlwind of the early miles gradually gives way to darker times later in the race. Times when we question why we do this in the first place and times when the sleeping bag by the campfire looks a heck of a lot more attractive than the darkness of the trail ahead. Here is where a positive attitude, developed and honed through running, can make you a better runner and, ultimately, a better person.

So, as we embark on another year of running, another aspirational year of challenges and opportunities, another year to find contentment in an increasingly divisive world, here’s hoping that when you come, literally or figuratively, to that dark aid station in the deep canyon of your life, the glasses are half full rather than half empty.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
The Achemist Heady Topper DIPA
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from The Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont. The Alchemist is a small, fifteen-barrel brewery devoted solely producing and distributing a single beer, Heady Topper. Heady Topper is a delicious Double IPA that tips the scales at 8% ABV and is loaded with plenty of hops. Yet, it has a creamy mouth feel and smooth finish that is truly remarkable in a DIPA of any size.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • How do you cultivate a positive attitude in your life and in your running?
  • How has your running benefited from having a positive attitude?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.