Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

Sometimes you’ve gotta get real with yourself.

You know, I think that it’s like, you “enter your thirties” and just like that, you’re old(er). Just kidding, I still feel quite young and spry, and I still giggle at jokes whose target demographic are 12 year old boys. But as I was saying: just like that, you’re older, and perhaps a bit more comfortable in your own skin and with that, less reluctant to admit things to yourself that you maybe used to deny, because it didn’t fit the mold of who and what you and/or others thought that you were supposed to be.

One of those things that I’ve finally let myself admit to…er…myself, is that with running, I’m now willing to sacrifice success for enjoyment. There. I’ve said it. I would rather enjoy what I’m doing more than I would like to be successful at it. A few years ago, I never would have dreamed of that. I didn’t think twice about going to the track every Tuesday and doing 25x400 or 6 x a mile or 10 x 1k or whatever other godawful broken-up variation of a 10k was on the docket for that day. I had no issue with going to the same Friday location to do a tempo or fartlek run. Whatever it took to lend me the leg-speed for a PR for a race I may or may not have even been looking forward to. Whatever workout was specific to what I was training for: on it. Whether I liked it or not. All those track races I ran during and after college? Yeah, I was only pretending to be excited for them. Lies. All of it.

Now? Yeah, you couldn’t pay me to do any of that stuff unless I felt like it.

Yes. I just owned that.

To clarify, I don't mean that I'm not willing to do the perhaps less enjoyable and more tedious things that making incremental gains necessitates, I'm simply saying that I'm not willing to sacrifice enjoyment at the altar of Success. 

I’m not sure what this mindset is indicative of. Burnout? I doubt it. I will always love running, we have certainly had our highs and lows, likely with more to come, but it’s been good to me over the years and I love it for its own sake and always will, whether I’m competing or not. No, I think it’s more of an acceptance thing. Acceptance of the fact that at the end of the day, I’m doing this because I like it, and any other good things that happen along the way are bonuses. As such, if I have to choose between a race or a workout that I'm dreading, yet is highly beneficial to a goal down the road, versus something that perhaps makes that goal maybe less achievable because of a lack of specificity or what have you, but I'm really looking forward to getting out the door to do it, I’m choosing the latter.

Sometimes, I feel a bit as though I’ve spent a decade and a half eating PB&J for lunch every day, and I just can’t handle PB&J anymore, so I need to either buy different bread, or try chunky rather than creamy peanut butter, or use Nutella or marshmallow fluff instead of peanut butter and omit the jelly altogether, or try that sketchy looking apricot jam rather than always using jelly, or slice up some bananas for that bad boy, or just SOMETHING.

I did try Vegemite instead though once and just about upchucked, so we’re not doing that again.

I think about a few short years ago, being offered a paid sponsorship from a shoe company I adored, and thinking it was a total dream come true. As it turned out, I didn’t run a race for nearly two years after that due to injury so was never able to take advantage of that offer, and I’ve often wondered at how different life would be now had it been in the cards to take that path. But sometimes I also wonder if the grass really would have been greener, or if having obligations to run certain races and a certain number of them and maybe not always exactly what I would have chosen for myself would have made all of this feel like a job? Or like having PB&J shoved down my throat rather than voluntarily force-feeding it to myself. I really can’t answer that without truly knowing if it’s just sour grapes at this point.

That aside, ideally in my Utopian Running Universe, I want to strike a balance where both success and enjoyment happen simultaneously, and where enjoyment doesn’t happen because of success, but independently of it, because enjoyment derived only from success isn’t true enjoyment at all. Success is much more fleeting than enjoyment should be.

My hang-up though is that I’ve often possessed this weird mindset where I feel as though if I am enjoying something, I have to endure something that I hate in order to truly enjoy it. Like in some weird way I feel guilty for enjoying it, or like there should always be a catch to something enjoyable. Love your job? You must be doing it wrong! Wanna eat that entire sleeve of Oreos? Oh heck yes you do! Diabetes comin' in hot! Had an amazing workout? You might've just left your race out there! I don’t know why I think that way. Strict Baptist upbringing perhaps. But bottom line: I don’t want to do crap I don’t like to do anymore, and if that's not ideal to some end goal but I had a hell of a good time along the way, then so be it.

I realized some of this when I was scrawling out some semblance of a plan to achieve what I would like to in coming months. And I looked at it and just started scratching things off and X-ing out things left and right and just having a real hay-day with my editing thinking, “Yeah this workout worked well before, but it sucked. Sooo…no. This one was mind-numbingly boring, so nope, not doing that either. Do I even like doing this one? Uh, NO. Big line through that one too. And oh hells NO I’m not touching the track, ever again in my life actually, I don’t even care if it makes me a four minute miler and it's so impressive that someone starts a doping accusation thread about me on Letsrun! So scratch that one also. Oooh, but THIS one was fun, and this other one was great, and I loooooved that one, and running up that thing over there resulted in the sort of ecstasy that’s usually only obtainable by being licked to smithereens by a puppy! So if I feel like doing it every week for forever, then I’m gonna! So take THAT!”

This also came on the heels of signing up for a bunch of races, but only ones that I liked, and axing any plan to run ones that I just “wanted” to run because I somehow felt like I should run them because I always run them. But doing stuff because you “should” rather than because you want to and are excited about it, makes the occasional temptation to walk away feel just a little too real.

What is it they say? “Man cannot live on bread alone?” Well, runners can’t run on PB&J alone either, I’m coming to find out. Besides, spend too many years eating PB&J’s and what happens if you develop a nut allergy? What happens if you realize that you just plain can’t stand PB&J anymore? You’re just S.O.L. I guess. Because then, it doesn’t really matter if PB&J’s equate to success, you better change it up or you’re a goner.

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