Maybe part of why I began to run again was to experience this "beginning" in a controlled way: I am choosing this beginning, as opposed to those dictated by circumstance or choices from when I was younger and did not embody the Delphic charioteer (he has emotions, but he is reigning them in). By retracing the steps that constitute beginning by running, I feel like I am able to experience self-control.
It is said that we should embrace change, which is another way of saying "a beginning". But I think that does not account for the realities of staying the courses that we choose. Just because life can seem chaotic does not mean to me that I will become like a jellyfish and go with the tide. To the contrary, it takes courage to surface from that tide and attempt to take a stand, whether for a dream job, a wish, a love, or even those old-fashioned things called ideals.
One such ideal is: it is not true that every man has his price. It is possible to value oneself more than selling one's words to sell things one wouldn't agree to be paid to have (junk). It is hard to stay the course if it is a long term course. This is why I dream of distance running: could it be true that we can go through those paces all within a day or two? That is amazing!
The long term course - so now I can't speak of running, my longest runs (besides my one marathon) are 22.36 miles, means unforeseeable circumstances down the road, cumulative exhaustion - which is a real thing in the daily grind, the need to dig deep and find motivation when even the noblest jobs seem pointless, whether because of low pay, toxic workplaces, apathetic milieus. But the beginning to that long term course is no easier. At this time in my running, after only 15 months, I still don't know if it is "OK" to half mileage for a week when work gets too much. I tried it once and went back to regular mileage with no problem - but the mental anguish of feeling like a failure is terrible. It'd be great to have an experienced mentor to help guide that.
Beginnings without guidance are trial and error, and to go through those paces takes time. I think for this reason, some of us beginner runners hold on to our mileage logs so dearly, and possibly too obsessively, because it's the only way to get from beginner to somewhere else. And why any unplanned off days feel like the end of the world.
Once upon a time, when Barnes and Noble was everywhere, I picked up Sports Training Principles by Frank Dick because it was written so simply and I have always wondered about body mechanics, and as I was skimming through it the other day looking for insight, any insight to help, I came across this:
It makes sense for the athlete to attribute failure to an unstable cause, such as luck or lane draw, as this implies that the result may not be repeated. If, on the other hand, the athlete attributes the failure to a stable cause, such as lack of necessary skill, then this is in part predicting future failure. The coach can encourage the athlete to attribute failure to causes such as lack of commitment, using unstable causes which the athlete can change next time.Lack of commitment as motivation. Amen. Sometimes, when I want to be a pain in the neck to myself, I analyse my day and think of all the places where I could have been more efficient with my time - even where I could have been "thinking better", e.g. more positively and creatively in problem solving - or at least funnier while struggling. Lack of commitment has many guises.
And it reminds us that we are not on the easy road. There are no external excuses on this road. This is what I love about beginning phases and also find so excrutiating: there is greater temptation for outer excuses in beginnings. There is temptation for them later, too, but not to the same degree because by then, some things have been mastered. I often think of differentitating masters from novices in this respect: only the latter has greater need of external excuses.
I make them especially when I am tired - and it is funny that so many runners not only get tired from running but are often overachievers in whichever respects in other fields of life. There are many excuse pitfalls: the stakes are raised with the increased challenge.
Who's got it easy. Everyone is taking up whatever they can in the way they know how. In this difficulty, though, in the beginning it is hard to know what we can take up realistically, over time.
I remember a few years back, looking back on where my life choices had led me and feeling like I had led myself to a precipice. I wasn't sure how I was going to get over that feeling. It was just too much: to live abroad for so long, in an ever-dwindling professional field, one lacks contacts to switch jobs and also, one's diverse professional knowledge from before has become outdated. I realised the best I could do was to keep pursuing the path I was already on, in good faith.
And now I feel the same way about running: I am half terrified at how far I've pushed myself, but I feel so much better about myself and even my humble lifestyle now that to stop, or even cut back, would literally mean removing the views that have renewed me (you cannot be frustrated at life when you are looking at a swan) and also the distance I feel like I have put between myself and my problems. Whenever I feel I am entering a toxic situation at work, I remember those miles and that space I feel in my mind - what is it? maybe feeling stronger, knowing I can reach the "away-from-here" - and I don't fall into as many traps. They can say what they like about what they like! It looks like it involves me, but it is their story, their movie they are projecting. Projections are attempts to draw us in, but if we don't engage, we are just watching a super bad film. Even if they are calling our name. (Sometimes, some colleagues are particularly unhappy - but our role in life extends beyond their testimony.)
So, I feel overwhelmed about running at this time, but ironically have cut my mileage in half this week and I don't know why and feel terrible about it - but a lot is going on, too. Preparing for a new semester, so drawing up those outlines, still finishing translating a work on the history of a discipline, the external excuses go on. But it is also this week that I decided to ask my trainer friend for help - so, as all of us say who are still in the middle of beginnings: to be continued...
Brush: Ewansim at Deviantart.