Thursday, September 1, 2011

Goals and What Drives Us

"Running has a way of possessing your soul, infiltrating your psyche, and quietly becoming your central life force. The difference between a jogger and a runner is that a jogger still has control of his life. We runners have lost it."
- Dean Karnazes

People around me probably know that I've been a little off lately.  I don't think this is all that unexpected as it is common after conquering a big goal to have a little hollow spot in your life that was previously occupied by the pursuit of that goal.   This summer I conquered a huge goal -- my first ultramarathon.  And the high from that experience has worn off.  I am now left with the decision of what to do next.  Sure, I have some races planned, but nothing that "gets my juices flowing".  (I am training for them and expect to do well.)  In reflecting on Dean's quote, I think I have become a jogger again -- running just stay in shape and keep a mileage base.  There is no passion in what I'm doing.

In some ways I think this problem is somewhat amplified by the fact that I am predominantly a morning runner.  It's a little more difficult to be adventurous when the clock is ticking and kids, work, and the real life await your return.  It's harder to enjoy the beauty of the world under a cover of darkness (though magical once in a while for sure!).  Getting up at 4 am to go rock fifteen miles in pursuit of a goal is hard core and invigorating.  Doing the same thing just to run some miles before work is boring and unfulfilling for me.

There was a discussion on the DailyMile a while back about the perfect run length and the consensus seemed to be about seven or eight miles.  And as I recall, the reasoning was something along these lines (or least this is why it would make sense to me):

  1. Time - it takes most runners little more than an hour to run that length.  This means it is not an interruption to life and not a huge strain on your body.  No recovery need, no permission from your spouse.
  2. Balance - it is enough of a run to get your endorphins flowing, burn some serious calories, but not enough to require serious planning or thought.  No need to think about how much water you need or what route you'll take (most people probably just have a standard one).
And don't get me wrong, for many people these goals are enough.  What's more, for many of those people they do run seven or eight miles with passion and purpose and it does fulfill their force.  I know many such friends.  The problem is that it's just not me.  Unfortunately, as Dean says, "moderation bores me".  In everything I do, it's all out or not at all.  There are days when I wish I wasn't wired that way and other days when I think it is one of my best qualities.  I am who I am.

So what's the answer?  I think I need a new goal.  Even if that goal is many months away, I need a reason to get up in the morning and push my limits.  Some would say that a hundred mile race is a reasonable next goal for me.  I trained hard enough to run one hundred this summer.  My finishing time for my fifty miler suggests that I project easily as a sub-30 hour hundred mile runner.  But if I go and run one hundred miles next year, then have I created an even bigger hole to fill after that?  A marathon already seems like it's not enough for me -- unless it's uphill!  If I complete one hundred miles, I fear that running fifty won't be as adventurous anymore.  And frankly, I had some issues during my fifty miler that leave me thinking I couldn't shoot for "the big buckle". Instead I'd likely have to be conservative and aim just to finish my first time out.  I'm not sure my mind will allow me to shoot for that.  Perhaps the answer lies in putting my passion into another hobby (brewing more beer!) until after the Winter.

Any suggestions on what I can do next?  One hundred miles? A destination fifty?  Something else?  

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