Day #30: Holding Back

“How do you mentally deal with cutting back on your run lengths when your mind wants to keep going but your body probably shouldn’t? I’m in a really awkward position now where I really want to go on hour-plus runs like I used to, but know it would probably be bad for my ankle. My mind can push myself further than my body can handle, since I was starting to really enjoy 10 mile runs at the peak of my training last year.”  ~Jacob Reed

Jacob, whose questions have been part of the conversation on “A Runner’s Podcast” – and who also happens to be my nephew – poses some great questions here. I particularly want to deal with the problem of listening to your body and holding back in order to be able to run again tomorrow and to accomplish your broader dreams than only those of today.

An oft-mentioned adage that you’d hear somewhat regularly during interval workouts with my high school runners was: “The body is able, but the mind is weak.” This is, of course, an edited version of Christ’s “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41b) Jesus was encouraging his tired disciples to stay up with him in his last hours before he went to his death. But his best friends were so exhausted with life that they – by their body’s weakness – abandoned their savior.

What does this have to do with your running? Everything on one level. Whereas my edited version of Christ’s words emphasizes how our minds often hold us back from becoming what we would, Jacob’s predicament is that he wants to go, he is raring to go – but his body says no! For him, Christ holds sway.

So, what are you to do, runner, when your body is hollering to back off – and yet your mind is thinking big – and you are finally inspired to roll, but you must not? For me, this is the time when a great discipline must kick in. This is when you must put the larger goal of the running streak, of the marathon still a year away and of the hope that you will be healthy and able to run with your children a decade and two decades from now – at the forefront of your ambitions…. Now is the time to steel yourself, by affirming a greater vision, and wait.

In these instances, which can last as long as … a year(!), all we must do is to wait with endurance. The same endurance which we enlist to finish the course when all cylinders are firing as they should. So, runner, remember that in your patience, you are truly training. You will redeem these lost runs – but only if you persevere in patience. Our greatest endurance is what it takes to realize our highest goals, and, as Carlyle writes:

Endurance is patience concentrated.”

Keep persevering – however that manifests itself today.

All the best!

~Coach Reed

By the way, don’t forget to check out yesterday’s poll about the distance of your next race.