Running and Discipline

My wife recommended that I give a first person perspective of my 12-hour race. Allow me to first thank and praise Julie for writing every week. In tears she stresses herself out with learning Romanian, learning academic English, staying calm in another culture, and working with her husband. While blogging can be enjoyable, her persistence is laudable and so I praise her. Thank you Julie for writing every week so other can read about our journey together. Now, for my perspective of the 67 mile, 12 hour run.
Fitness is necessary but not sufficient. Two Saturdays ago I found myself 3 and a half hours into the 12 hour run discouraged and defeated. It was mile 32. Why? I thought I was ready. My training took me up to 42 miles, which is a longer run than most ultra training plans will include. If my body could run this 42-mile long-run, methought, then I could endure just another 6 hours. Then I thought of one issue. I only prepared for this run for a month. While many people train and anticipate this race for 6 months to a year, I only had a month do think about it.
My body was prepared but mentally I fell apart. Two hours into the race I felt great and I was ready for another 10 hours. But I soon realized most of endurance is mental. And soon after I realized this, I realized how much endurance I lacked. This was going to be the longest race of my life. But even beyond this, I had to be prepared to run in a circle, seeing the same thing every 5 minutes. And then I gained some experiential understanding. I gained a deeper understanding that training is more mental preparation than physical preparation. Reading statements like these in articles and books, I thought I knew of its truth. Yet having experienced it now, mental self-discipline is a necessary virtue of a runner, indeed.
Mental self-discipline, and I know of no other kind, is a worthy aspiration. Though self-discipline is what I lacked, my aspiration of it got me through the race. I stopped running and walked with Julie and was asking myself, “why am I running? Not wanting to stop, I told Julie I wanted to run to at least 44 miles. I ate and started running, thinking about the why question. Before I explain what motivates my running, I will say two things. First, many runners have vaguely answered this “why” questions. They give abstract answers, that make me feel uncomfortable. They’ll say things like, I feel “present,” or “I forget about time.” Though there is a certain peace that comes with running, it isn’t what gets me out of bed; I can get a peace from tying my shoe. To me, this reason just doesn’t justify running. I want to find a reason that has enough explanative power to justify the discomfort of running. Secondly, I want to give a few reasons why I do not think I run. First, I do not think I run because I enjoy runners “high.” I have felt euphoria on a run but it doesn’t justify it. Extrinsic motivation, if I can call it that, doesn’t do it for me. When people say, “I run marathons so I can eat whatever I want,” I laugh in confusion. I don’t run because it is healthy. This could be true but running such distances is not that healthy. Some studies have actually shown that distance-running can be harmful to your heart. Finally, I don’t think I am motivated to run because I am oozing with self-discipline. As a matter of feeling, this is want I want to talk about. I believe it is the aspiration which motivates my running.
I want to be disciplined. As I find in myself many inappropriate desires, I want to manage them well and not be controlled by them but by my mind. If I want to be disciplined, is it wrong to run 12 hours to this end? I have always desired this virtue, as I assume does. Thinking through this reason helped me finish the race. If I want discipline, then running in a circle is a good way to cultivate it; running is just my favored mean to this end because of other reasons, such as it being inspirational to others, a challenging pursuit, provides contentment, and it is also a gift from God. So ultimately, I think I run for discipline. It is a virtue which drives me to run when it is uncomfortable, whether I am tired in the morning, hot at high-noon, or lonely on a long-run. Identifying this reason, I thought, “this race is perfect for me.” Discipline awaited me.
Though the race was sort of a failure, it was sort of a success. I learned it takes much more than being fit to run in a circle. And I learned the that discipline is a virtue which justifies running.

1 Comment

  1. Mom
    October 3, 2017

    I know you are a very disciplined individual and we are so proud of you. We are so thankful for you discipline in your service to God.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: