The defiance of the long-distance runner

You know you’ve been away from double-digit mileage too long when you actually start to crave the taste of Carb-Boom.

These were the self-imposed limitations muttering in my ears this morning as I struggled to convince myself to get up and go for a run: “It’s too early. You need more sleep. You can’t run 10 miles. You haven’t run more than five miles since November … and you walked half of that five-miler you tried Saturday. You haven’t had any breakfast. You don’t have any Gatorade. You haven’t been drinking enough water. You’re going to get woozy. You’re going to pass out. You’re going to hurt yourself. You always get too hot when you run on the treadmill. You can’t possibly run 10 miles today.”

That little voice of false limitation is the same little voice that chases every marathoner through weeks of training. It gets up early on long-run days and prances along in front of you, whining its hateful little sing-song about how this is too hard and you’ll never make it. It whispers lies about blisters and dehydration and The Wall while you run, and it wakes you up in the middle of the night with aggressive mental suggestions about muscle cramps. It uses all sorts of dirty tricks to try to make you believe in it. You continually have to tell it to pipe down, because you’d never finish if you let it keep yanging at you.

I silenced it this morning with 10 strong miles on the treadmill (adding a tenth of a mph to my speed every 15 minutes or so, just to rub it in) and a poem I’d learned as a child and then forgotten until today:

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me —
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

— Shel Silverstein

I’m 33 days from 26.2.

Bring it.



5 thoughts on “The defiance of the long-distance runner”

  1. great post, I love it. love the poem.

    keep running!! where are you marathoning? if you ever come up here to Boston, we need to meet each other!


  2. I ran the Oklahoma Marathon here in Tulsa last fall. Promised myself that would be the first and last marathon I’d ever do, but I’m told everybody says that. I’m eastern veep of the OK Route 66 Association, so I’d never hear the end of it if I blew off the Route 66 Marathon, which will be here in town next November … but for reasons I cannot begin to explain, I decided the other day that I might as well start getting back into shape so I can run the OKC Memorial Marathon in April. (Nice timing … it takes 16 weeks to train for a marathon, and I decided I wanted one that’s only a month away. Sometimes I think the only reason I ever do anything is to prove I can.)

    I’d have to knock two hours off my time to qualify for Boston, but if I ever get out there to tour the Mapparium and visit my friend Amy, I’ll look you up.

  3. Good grief, now you’ve got me thinking about the full 26.2 at the November Route 66. This is the kind of garbage my brother loves to pull on me.

    Seriously, I enjoyed your piece. It’s pretty inspriational. 26.2 in November…maybe, maybe not…the main thing is the pleasure of the run, especially in the spring. There’s nothing quite like it. Keats wrote “…in spite of all / Some shape of beauty moves away the pall / From our dark spirits.” Running does it, too.

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