Day #46: The 4 Stages of Runners

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The Wheezer

The most neanderthal of distance runners is the least developed cardio-vascularly – and perhaps more importantly, psychologically, for the run – but with a benefit in the areas of modesty and obliviousness to the coming pain — and joys. Welcome to the Wheezer!

The Wheezer wheezes, of course, and complains constantly. After all, he is just beginning to train – in some cases after very long lay-offs from physical activity. Usually, the Wheezer’s complaints center around a lack of a capacity to get oxygen. The 5km a day plan is great for this uninitiated fellow because the effort to run the daily 3 miles rarely ends in utter exhaustion – a fate which cuts short many would-be runners’ careers. Wheeze for 30 minutes, and I will see you tomorrow…

The Watcher

Next comes the ‘Watch’-er. This is the gadget-oriented runner, and we have all been one — and forever retain the pull back to the stuff of distance running. Having paid her dues to escape the Wheezer stage, the Watcher fixates on gear. Even in the midst of the minimalist barefoot movement, the Watcher is driven to wear socks on her arms, carry way too much water and goo, and extra chafing cream, and to continually ply her spouse to get her ‘that watch’!

This is all fine and dandy – if you are independently wealthy – but as is the case with so many addictive hobbies – the accoutrements of running add little to the experience and bliss of pounding the pavement with your best buddies. Sure, the watch is nice to get a real read on the pace and coordinates of that sweet run, where you just knew you were truly blazing. But, running accessories often push against one of the greatest beauties of our sport – its simplicity.  As I have advocated in many of my posts, consider running “unattached” – free of the anxiety of speed and free of the watches that compel us to battle faster and faster. Eventually, the Watcher sees that although the stuff of running is fun and techy, the true beauty of the distance run is the stopping of the normal behaviors of the day – the escape into the freedom of the run. It’s nice to ditch the watch from time to time.

The Whiner

We have all – each of us who has trained for that big race and failed – sat on the curb alone, defeated in our inability to keep up with what we convinced ourselves we could be. And in those instances, we have whined. This 3rd stage is an advanced state for the runner – and many succumb to its rigors. This takes the form of burnout, most often. And many of us – as a result of our inability to know who we actually are as runners – are always wallowing on the edge of whinerdom. We sort of believe that we can run such and such a marathon time — maybe we have even claimed that speedy time in some unchecked conversation. But the truth is we believe we are something which we are not – and when reality forces us to confront our true identity, we get defensive – and we whine.

Yes, we runners have a whining gene sewn into our DNA. Let’s face it, some of the crud we take as runners – from, shall I say the word, football players amongst other notable scoffers – is well-deserved. We couldn’t take the hit on the football field, it is true. And so we run. And when we are ‘hit’ on the roads or the track, when we have our number handed to us, when we drop out of a race – we stand defeated by reality. When we begin to actually WALK!!! during a workout or worse-yet, during a marathon — and then we soberly reflect upon that failure, this is when our true colors show themselves – and we cry in our beers over what could have been. What should have been… If only…..

But in running there really is no one to point to in failure but yourself — and so, in finally bellying up to the mirror, getting the real face-to-face that  this is how it actually is with ourselves, we whine. The question is: what do you do with your tears?

The Winner

The Winner capitalizes on her tears. She reflects, sees how truly slow she is, and makes a decision: she resolves to either get faster or throw away the watch. I argue that the best way to get faster is to get rid of the watch. Find again the LOVE of running — or discover it at last if you never knew it.

Some runners only experience runner’s high when they break through the tape ahead of the world and achieve the coveted win. Most never win a footrace, but the few who do also traipse along the edge of a false hope and a false joy. This is the counterfeit assurance that the bliss of the win is the glory of running. But this is only a phantom wish.

The life-long runner — she who has made it from neanderthal to Sheehan’s “seeing” — she knows that the real victory comes along the solo road, alone with her footstrikes, sketching out the dreams of the season she is in. Karnazes calls it being present. This is truly winning and is known only by those who have passed through the previous stages so that it is known for what it is: olympian GLORY!

Here’s to becoming a winner!

~Coach Reed

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please check out the series of posts which is an expanded look at the stages of runners. Enjoy — and please let me know your own thoughts about the different stages of becoming in the runner’s maturing process. Best! ~Patrick

image credit: Zazzle