Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

I looked at the calendar, it’s almost May, and I can’t believe the crazy whirlwind that’s comprised the last 6 months. Life in rep-land is a little like a weird time-warp; you’re always planning for a million things and/or going somewhere and before you know it a month has gone by and it feels like a week.

One great thing about time feeling as though it has elapsed in fast-forward motion is that finally--and I say this as I knock on wood—running is pain-free again! It wasn’t long ago that any run that was just the tiniest bit too far or too fast, would pretty much send my plantar and Achilles backtracking toward square one. It just didn’t respond well to much of anything. But not anymore. At some point I just stopped noticing or caring about it all that much, I’m not really sure when that happened because truthfully, running hasn’t really been very much of a focus for the first time since I was probably like 16 years old. I think maybe it fixed itself because I finally just stopped giving a s*it. I wish I would have known that the key to getting healthy was to stop giving a s*it. That would have been so much cheaper and would’ve saved me a lot of needles in my foot and calf.

On one hand, this Giving Less of a S*hit shall we say, has been really liberating, on the other hand I hope it doesn’t mean the beginning of the end because in reality, competing successfully does take a certain amount of tunnel-vision focus. And it seems like once you lose that tunnel-vision, it's awfully hard to get back. And truthfully I don’t know if I want it back. Hopefully that’s not part of that mythical beast we all know of as “burn out.” I still want to pursue it and to be successful at it, but I don’t want the all-encompassing obsession that has always come with it. Not at all. I realized how much life and fun was sucked out of what should be a great thing. Now, I really only think about running when I’m running. Before, it was all I thought about nearly every waking moment of the day.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed about this whole new job/new place/new lifestyle/etc., change that’s taken place is that I noticed that for the last several years I’ve really kind of lived in a “bubble” so to speak, of my own mind. Not just my own mind, but physically I lived in a “bubble” of a running world. I really, REALLY, wanted to be successful with running, and literally everything was geared towards that; from the people who I surrounded myself with to the jobs I looked at and the one I had, and I did the same things at the same time every day and chalked all of it up to “money in the bank,” every decision that I made was made with this little voice that would say, “but can I still train/race how/when I want and is it going to go how I need it to?” I had a plan that I wanted to see happen a certain way and even though it got blown to smithereens virtually every year with injuries and setbacks, that only made me come back more determined to control every factor I could and try even harder than before. What I thought of as working really hard and being super determined was really just me being a control freak. There is a line to draw between those things.

Regardless of the level you’re at, there seems to be an Inverted-U of sorts that goes with that degree of physical, mental, and emotional investment into something. Some is good, more may be a little bit better, but beyond a point and it’s detrimental, not to mention exhausting. To be honest, in hindsight, my previous mental approach and attitude was really sort of completely ridiculous, not terribly realistic, rooted in insecurity, not at all sustainable (which I learned the hard way), and also really anxiety-inducing because, what if one of those things that you’re hell-bent on controlling doesn’t go how you planned for it to? Which was often. There were so many times the last several years when the week of a race, I would sleep maybe 3-5 hours a night max, because I’d be so worried that something was going to go wrong and I wouldn’t do as well as possible. Heck, that even happened the nights preceding important workouts. Way to self-sabotage there, champ. Good job. 

I think back on some of the seasons and races that were really successful and should have been really joyful because what’s more satisfying to a runner than watching hard work pay off and having goals that you can realistically look at achieving? Not much. But rather, it was oddly stressful and made me expect more from myself, compare myself more, want to prove myself more, all while at the same time waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it inevitably would, because that’s what happens when you’re never satisfied with just being consistent, nothing’s enough, you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, and you keep trying for more. Not only that, but going back to the “bubble” that I lived in, it kind of felt like, “if this all doesn’t go right, what then? Who am I going to be then?” Like if running doesn’t go well then holy sh*t I’m gonna die. Because you know, I’m making a living off of it and everything. Oh wait, no I’m not.

There’s a difference between wanting to be successful at something versus feeling like you have to be. Bottom line, while I do want to be, I no longer feel like I have to be. Had I never taken this big of a step outwards and backwards, I don’t think I ever would have noticed anything so glaringly obvious.

It’s been nearly two years since I stepped on a starting line--it doesn’t feel like that and it’s hard to believe--but I’m thinking soon I probably will, and we’ll see how it goes. Regardless of the result, here’s to staying out of the bubble.

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