The Acceptance And Denial Debate

AJW writes about how it takes both acceptance and denial to be a trail and ultrarunner.

By on May 12, 2017 | Comments

AJW's TaproomOne of the great gifts of distance running is the time and space it affords us to turn inward. In the midst of a run, I often find myself most at peace as stillness settles over my mind and body and I open myself up to internal dialogue. Most times that internal dialogue is rather mundane, but from time to time it becomes more profound. On my daily runs recently, I have been gripped by an internal debate, a debate between acceptance and denial.

I suppose this is not unusual for an aging ultrarunner. On the one hand, I am at a place in my running life where I am forced into a position of acceptance. A place in which I run more slowly, occasionally more painfully, and often more deliberately. On the other hand, I cannot help but deny those limits, stretch the boundaries, and seek to break out of a potentially static routine. If it is through a series of denials that I’ve become the runner I am, then why should that be taken away by the passage of time?

In a sense, the ultrarunner’s life is all about the amplitude between acceptance and denial. And, like with many dichotomies, perhaps the best answers lie somewhere in the middle. Yet, many of us have gotten to where we are because we are both world-class deniers and master-class acceptors. Through our rough-hewn ability to push away pain, fatigue, and suffering in the midst of long exhausting efforts, we have become open to transcending the ordinary and sought out the extraordinary. At the same time, the best of us, and those of us who’ve been around the longest, also know our limits, respect our abilities, and strive for the familiar. In short, long-distance runners are the walking embodiment of the acceptance/denial debate.

For me, in running and in life, I tend to be an acceptance/denial ‘waffler.’ In fact, I believe that years of running long have extended the debate to the rest of my life. In times of acceptance, I tend to be patient, cautious, and reflective. My life slows down in these moments and a calmness descends over me. Conversely, in periods of denial, things speed up, I tend to take a few more risks, and decisions can be more reactive and spontaneous. I’ve noticed that if I stay too long in one sphere that things go wrong, get stale, and perhaps even fall off kilter. Yet toggling too frequently between the extremes makes me scattered and undisciplined. In short, I think as a runner and as a human, I need both, in equal doses.

The gift of inward dialogue on the run has given me sustenance and made me who I am. It has also allowed me to face questions about life and living that I wasn’t quite sure how to ask. In the case of the acceptance/denial debate, the internal dialogue continues as I seek to ever evolve into a better runner and a better person. As such, I continue to look eagerly forward to that daily appointment with myself, however fast or slow, that can perhaps lead me to more clarity, focus, and understanding.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

New Belgium Brewing Company Voodoo Ranger IPAI’ve always liked New Belgium Brewing Company, headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado, ever since I had my first Fat Tire many years ago. Recently I was introduced to New Belgium’s newest offering, Voodoo Ranger IPA. This delicious new spin on their classic Ranger IPA has a burst of fruit balanced with a gentle sting of West Coast hops. It’s perfect for a late-spring post-run treat and at 7% and 52 IBUs, it is balanced in all the right ways.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What parts acceptance and what parts denial have gotten you to where you are with your running? And how about in life?
  • Would you agree with AJW that falling somewhere in the middle with acceptance and denial is a good place to ‘operate’ as a trail and ultrarunner?
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.