Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Running lessons: You never can tell

One of the things I've learned in my 12+ years of running is that you never can tell. You never can tell when your body will feel totally awesome or incredibly awful. You never can tell when you'll have a fantastic run or a terrible one. You never can tell if you're actually ready to race on a given day.

The fact is that, no matter how well you prepare, stuff happens. The race that should have been your best ever is a complete disappointment (Fredericton last spring). Another that you expect to be a total pain-fest is a joy-filled personal best (San Francisco in 2011).

Some things simply aren't predictable. Sure, you can pore over details afterwards and, if you're lucky, identify what went right and wrong, then try to replicate or avoid it in future. But the truth is that a great deal of what happens during a run is simply beyond your control.

Life's like that too, of course. The places, people, experiences we expect to bring us happiness often leave us cold, and vice versa. Usually, it's our expectations that are the problem. They aren't realistic. People don't (or can't) live up to them. We focus on what's missing rather than appreciating what is.

Of course, it doesn't help that we live in a culture that encourages us to expect a lot, then feel dissatisfied when we don't get it. It's why marketers earn the big bucks. The more we want, the more unhappy we are when we don't get it, the more likely we are to  consume stuff in hopes it will make us feel better. And, when it doesn't, the cycle begins again.

So what should we do? Well, for starters, we should be aware of our expectations and examine them critically to figure out whether they're realistic, helpful, etc. I'm not suggesting all expectations are bad. It often makes sense to set goals and work towards achieving them. But, when the goals aren't attainable or when we expect other people to do certain things or behave in certain ways, we're only setting ourselves up for disappointment.

And what does any of this have to do with the photo at the top of this post, you ask? I took it Sunday afternoon while I was preparing to head back to the city. Patterns danced across the floor and up the walls as late afternoon sunlight streamed through tree branches swaying in the wind. Fascinated, Nemmie (the cat) sat in the hallway, staring at the wall, occasionally stretching out a paw in a vain attempt to catch the light.

I stood watching for several moments, then remembered that last week's theme for my photo group was "hallways and corridors". Fortunately, my camera was nearby so I was able to grab it and snap the photo before Nemmie got distracted by something else and wandered off. When I uploaded it to my Facebook page later that evening, a number of friends responded immediately, saying how much they enjoyed it. Something about the image resonated, which surprised me a little because, although I liked it, I didn't really expect others to. Which just goes to show you never can tell. Sometimes, when you least expect it, good things happen.

BTW, for the running geeks in the crowd, here's a summary of my training last week:

Total # runs: 4
Hill training:  6 hills
Tempo runs: 1 - 10k
Longest run: 17k
Total distance run: 40k

Happy running and writing, friends!

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