Monday, May 21, 2012

Appropriate Madness

 “Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” ~ Aristotle
 It's 4 a.m. Sunday morning. I stumble through my pitch-dark house trying not to wake everyone. I start the coffee brewing, jump in the shower...and wonder why on earth I'm up before dawn, getting ready to run another marathon. What madness has me in its grip? I can't remember at this point why I thought this was a good idea.

I've just spent the past two days sitting through a Road Runners Club of America Coach Certification Clinic - 9+ hours each day sitting on my tush doing nothing with my body, sloth and tightness settles in. I'm itching to run. So, after deciding Friday night that running the Colfax Marathon would be unwise, I found myself tromping around my house silent and grumpy. My husband asked me what was wrong, about a bazillion times - I said  'nothing', about a bazillion times, churning my decision over and over, silently, in my mind. As we got ready to go to sleep he said: "Just go register. If you want to run it, just go register". So, at 11 p.m. I got up, went downstairs to my office and clicked on the "register" button. Done.

Sunday - 4:34 a.m., I get in the car and point it towards Denver. I crank Coldplay on the stereo, roll down the windows, and breath in the cold, damp morning air. This is one of those mornings that makes you aware that coffee is one of the greatest gifts from the gods. The streets are silent. And as the sun begins to break the horizon, I am reminded of why I thought this was a good idea.

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So, where did this idea really come from? Why would I choose to run three marathons in less than 5 weeks? I'm definitely the quality over quantity type of runner (and I'd say in most aspects of my life). So why would I go this route. This goes against much of what I believe is good and worthwhile. 

Well this winter was tough on me for many reasons - tough training (weather conditions), concussed training, sick training, injured training - and then sucky races for all of that! What could I take away from all of this? I didn't even have the opportunity to learn lots of important lessons from it all - except, of course, that you can't control the weather (Boston) nor can you control the negligent actions of someone else (concussion) - But I already knew that!

My thoughts on running Colfax went something like this:
1) I just feel like running it - the weather forecast predicted practically brilliant conditions. I just feel like going for a really long run in brilliant weather! Even though I had run a marathon the previous weekend, I felt really quite recovered, my legs felt fairly good, and my heart wanted to run.
2) Maybe, just maybe, I can salvage something out of this training cycle by:  a) doing something I never ever would have contemplated doing, and b) qualifying for Marathon Maniacs, something I never really want to do (I never even gave any thought to the notion) nor thought I ever could.
But, "Is this a foolhardy action?" "Is this imprudent?" I asked myself. As a good Aristotelian this is an important question. Additionally, am I trying to prove something (to myself and others)? By Friday I had convinced myself that it was indeed foolhardy - that's what reason tried to tell me. I could hurt myself. I'm pushing things too far. The risks are too great. This is just a stupid idea. All my friends will think I'm crazy.

But reason is not the only factor important to weigh. Aristotle describes how the virtues (such as courage, prudence, etc.) demand a balance between the rational and irrational parts of the soul. Emotion (the irrational) moves us to act. Without emotion, without passion, we don't care about anything so we don't 'want' to do anything. Reason directs the emotions, for without reason our emotions run amok. But you have to have both in balance, and that's the hard part. Reason said: "No. Don't run. It's stupid and risky". Emotion said: "Baaaa. Run. You want to run". The crux is finding that balance.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” ~ Aristotle
So I ran. It was fun. I fortuitously ran into a friend around mile 3 and we chatted the whole way (she just needed an easy qualifying time for the Pikes Peak Marathon) - something I never do when I'm in "race" mode. I looked around, I lost track of the miles, I stopped twice, yes twice (!) to pee, I stopped at water stops, I maintained my form, I high-fived some friends passing the other way...

And I just went for a nice long run on a brilliant day and had a lot of fun doing it. In the end, that's why I run and continue to run...
"No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness." ~ Aristotle

7 comments:

  1. Well Caolan, I know exactly how you were feeling before actually signing up for Colfax. I went to the same place for my half this past weekend. After I qualified for Half Fanatics at the beginning of March I've been racing (more like running) for the past 8 weeks. I'm not out to win, I'm just not that fast. I just run to enjoy, to prove to myself that I can do it and to lift me from my own emotional upheavals caused by my disorder.

    I had run my last half marathon the Sunday before and even though my knees and feet were still aching on Thursday I was hemming and hawing about signing up for the run on Saturday. On Friday morning I finally decided that I was going to run the race and took off that night to get to Albuquerque where the race was held. It was more a matter of I "need" to run than anything else...although adding another race to my HF portfolio was a bonus. It also helped that it was Armed Forces Day and for a military family and veteran I had a sense of obligation to represent. Sometimes we just have to do what we feel is necessary as long as we realize the inherent risks of the choice. Today, I'm glad that I ran the race. Truthfully it was a next to last finish (field of 34) but I finished and that's all that counts.

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    1. What's funny is that I never ever gave any thought to the whole 'Maniacs' thing - I qualified for HM last year but never pursued it - And I have no intention of continuing this route (for now) so it was a little strange to suddenly think this way. Mostly it was just the deep down feeling that I just wanted to run this run. I don't really know why, it just happened before I could stop the thought from jumping into my silly head!

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  2. I am glad that you decided to run, and that it ended up being obviously the right decision. It's not like you signed up to kill it in three marathons in five weeks. You signed up to run, to do something you truly enjoy. I'm happy that you did it!

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    2. Well, in all honesty, the purpose of the first two was to 'kill it' so to speak ;) It just didn't turned out as planned - so the plan changed!

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  3. It sounds like you approached it perfectly and it sounds like you're finally feeling some of that redemption. I was envious of everyone who got to run long on that gorgeous day. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks Terzah. You'll be back at before you know it - and I have been there, and will probably be there again. It's all part of the madness ;)

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