I choose NOT to be a better runner

Yes, you read that right. 

I made this decision a while back. And it was Right. For me. It’s who I am.
 
But, I was reading Matt Fitzgerald’s “Runner’s World Guide To Cross-training” and at the end he lists things we should be doing to be “a better runner”. All obvious stuff: sleeping, eating well, hydrating, etc., etc., and as obvious as all that is, “life” (or my life, at least) goes in the other direction. And yes, I could change it, and be a better runner… 
 
But no, I chose to go out, I chose to eat all I want, and whatever I want, and it’s ok if it affects my running. So be it. I own the consequences of my choices.
 
I run because I like it. I run because it’s good for my health. I run because it helps me relax and think. I run because it allows me to eat all I want and makes my body look and feel like I am 22 without having to go to the gym, diet, cosmetic surgery, tanning beds, and all that gross stuff.
 
I want my running to bring that good stuff into my life, and NOT to take stuff out. I am not willing to cut my nights short, or miss out on quality time with friends or family. I am not willing to say no to that donut, that cupcake, that steak, or anything else. 
 
I love running THIS much BECAUSE it is NOT stopping me from doing all the other things I like. I am not willing to sacrifice much from my life to run a few seconds faster. So I am ok with having less speed, or less endurance, or being a bit heavier on my feet.
 
I will cross-train a bit to avoid injury, I’ll give him that. I’ll do drills and I’ll wear flat shoes most days. I’ll hydrate, I’ll sleep a bit more when I can, and I’ll eat good stuff half the times. I’ll give him all that too. And I’ll ice-bath (who am I kidding? I love the ice baths!).
 
So it is OK if I never ever reach my full potential as a runner. I don’t mind. But I love and enjoy my running more this way, because it’s not taking anything away from me.
 
Pre said that “giving less than your best is sacrificing the gift“. But, what is that “best”? And what is that “best” for me? And what is my “gift”?
 
For him, it probably was to suffer in the track, to leave it all out there, to get to the point of blood and guts and broken bones and knowing he did all he could to win. Ah, Running and Pain go so close together… But what is it about with glorifying the pain in this sport? WHO likes pain???? No, don’t lie. No one likes it… You like knowing you are tough and you can withstand anything and feeling unbreakable, but no one likes the pain itself. Still, pain is inevitable here. I am still trying to learn to subject myself to as little pain as possible, short of walking. I might be sacrificing the gift, but I don’t think that’s “my gift”. My best is definitely something else. It’s not in a PR. It’s not in how many miles I suffer through, how high I place, how fast I can get, how many PRs in a row I score, how many races I do or qualify for. That is not the measure of me. 
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41 thoughts on “I choose NOT to be a better runner

  1. I agree! While sometimes I think it would be nice to be faster, I’m not willing to commit to totally rearranging my life in order to make it happen. Running is PART of my life, a part that I enjoy, but it isn’t my only passion in life.

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    • We are a bit more than a sum of the parts 😉 we are how be manage them too! it took me a while to say this out loud, but it helped me a lot to stop second guessing every decision I make.

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  2. You’re right. Running should bring good stuff instead of taking off. I do my best, but I do not worship the pain. I avoid it at all. A good race for me is a race without (much) pain. Recently I ran a marathon in which my body shut down at km 28. I was not much fast, but it happened. I tried to go on but it was painfull. So I had to alternate between walking and running. At the end of the race I realized I’ve scored a PR. Even it was my best time in marathons, I didn’t enjoy it. I feel so much pain during the race and it is not worthy. That’s why I so agree with you. I’m not a professional so I do not have to sacifice a lot of things in my life to improve my PRs.

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    • I do believe in some trade-off and making some sacrifices but they have to be the sacrifices I am ok with. Sometimes, like in your example, we push way too much our happy point that we can’t really enjoy the rewards anymore…

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  3. I love this. With all the emphasis on paleo eating recently it’s been making me feel a little guilty that I’m not willing to do that. I like bread, pasta, rice, ice cream, and cheese. Is being the “perfect” weight and running just a few seconds faster worth all that sacrifice? Why eat if you can’t treat yourself to tasty things? I’m glad that someone finally posted this.

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  4. See, now I’d rather eat healthy food than take ice-baths, so the definition of “pain” might be relative… I’m still a bit addicted to PR’s though. :/ I haven’t been running long enough; I’m sure that will change.

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  5. Great post. I’ve been mulling over the same things. I love to run and want to be faster….to a point. And that point comes when it stops being fun. Running keeps us fit so we can enjoy things more. So yes, I will still eat junk when I feel like it and not be super high mileage. I love cross training, but I won’t be a slave to it or my mileage. I’d rather have a life and be a good enough runner than be the best.
    And by the way, you are an awesome runner. You get it! 🙂

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  6. I wrote a long reply earlier, but lost it when I tried to submit. I’ve been thinking about the same things lately. Basically I am with you. I don’t want to be a slave to my mileage, diet, cross training either. I’d rather be low mileage and not feel guilty for enjoying a treat and have a life than be faster. You are a great ambassador for our sport. And such an inspiration for turning your health around. Maybe that is your best gift as far as running goes.

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  7. Thank you for this! A major reason I stopped running back in my twenties was burnout. College was over, it didn’t matter anymore what my time was, who was trying to beat me, who I want to beat, etc. It is fun to compete and be fit, but when it gets to the point that you dread workouts and just want to stop forever, you’re in over your head. It’s different for the elite runners who get paid and get sponsors and are trying to get a medal at the Olympics. I know I’m definitely no where near that calibre, and that’s fine.

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  8. Okay, so I’m thinking about this all morning!! I reorganized my thoughts with a little more clarity, so I’ll repost what I wrote over on the Loop:
    “I think it depends on where you are as a runner… I can’t really identify with this, because I’m still new (only a year of racing) and I don’t feel like I’ve exhausted my potential with just hard work, determination, and training. Plus, I haven’t reached some of the goals that are very important to me, like a marathon. But I think this does resonate– maybe– with runners who have done so much and realize that to get to another level they have to resort to some extraordinary means. Then the trade-off between quality of life and extrordinary means might not be worth it? I’m not there yet, so I don’t know, just theorizing.”

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    • Peg, I am not sure I have exhausted my potential either. I am still PRing and in 1.5 years I will be a master runner, which is quite exciting and I want to be ready. The difference is, do I want to commit myself to losing those couple of extra pounds, not eat anything delicious, go to sleep at 9 and all that? Or can I just get better by doing a bit of work and having fun also? I take the second option. The first one, on someone who enjoys running like me, causes burnout really fast. And I’ll be moody in 2 days. Not only I need all the other great stuff in my life, but I believe it does make my running better, as being a more rounded (and happy) individual makes you a better runner. my goal is to run until the day I die, so keeping it happy is the only way I am not going to see it as a “workout”, something I have to better at, and I will want to do it forever. And you know, as long as we don’t get injured, we get faster/better no matter what 😉

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  9. Okay, yeah… makes sense. Maybe I enjoy running almost more for the challenges than for running itself. ?? Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I know I used to enjoy running when I didn’t race at all, but I am in LOVE with it now when doing it for a race/goal…

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  10. We all love a challenge, and a PR, and all that. But, what would happen if I told you, you could get a LOT better, if you ate “all these things” (nothing you like), go to sleep at 10, never have time for your family cause you have to cross-train, and do ice baths, and then rest, and then do drills, basically, like it’s your job. and everytime you go out for a run, you’ll have paces you have to hit. everytime. how does that sound? 😉

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  11. Well… I CAN’T sleep at 10:00, way too early… my family is actually what keeps me from cross-training and running more (not that I mind, it’s just the way it is), and I don’t do ice baths. So, yeah– I get what you’re saying. 🙂

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  12. And this is why you are Queen of the Loop. I am right with you in philosophy. I think especially those of us who have been around for a while can relate. There is no room for guilt or stress in running! We need to go out for burgers or donuts some time.

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  13. I think the important thing here is that YOU are okay with “choosing not to be a better runner.” I don’t care how much you hydrate, fuel, sleep, cross-train, etc. You know what works for you and what provides a happy balance in your life. I will always enjoy your insights as well as seeing all of the glamorous things you get to do 🙂 And I’ll likely still try some of your suggestions, Many of us are still trying to find ourselves as runners. That is why we tinker with our diets, miles, workouts, training plans, etc. May we all find be as lucky as you in finding a way to run that we love!

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    • don’t get me wrong, I put a lot of work and effort into my running, and I still tinker with those things too, I just don’t see them as sacrifices but choices. I choose to do drills, because I like them or because I know they work for me, but I choose not to give up donuts because then I am miserable… I think you are right, I’ve find what things I don’t want to give up and what I care about, it’s really hard to get there, and saying it out loud was not easy either. And I know, I might never see how fast I can really be, and I am ok with that.

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  14. You are happy with where you are at in running. Maybe that’s what why you don’t feel like you need to make any sacrifices in your diet or your life. But what about runners that are shooting for that BQ or 100-miler (me) that need to make some sacrifices to help us fulfill our dreams? If restricting my diet to lose weight was the “silver bullet”, I’d do it! I wouldn’t do it for a few lousy seconds off a PR, but at some tipping point, can we runners be “bought”? For me, I just need to run more, injury-free to make my 100-mile dreams come true. But I refuse to sacrifice too much family time to do it. I will cut out some sleep skip lunch to run whenever I can though… We are all very different when it comes to the sacrifices we make for running, in the hopes that we can run better, stronger, faster, and injury free.

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    • Hi John, you’re right. I think I’ve always been happy with just running and enjoying it. I’ve gotten some goals off the list and achieved enough to be happy about it, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see my potential to be a LOT better. I see it. And it’s not that I don’t care, but I know myself and I know that if I go that route I will resent my running, not enjoy it as much so I am willing to stay where I am and loose some things to be able to keep enjoying this long term. And yes, I do put a LOT of work and effort into it, but because I am not giving up what I like, I don’t see it that as sacrifices.

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  15. This plays well into some thoughts I’ve had recently as I am trying to drop 13-15 pounds. Part of me wants to get smaller to be faster but most of me wants to be smaller to be happier. But how much misery am I willing to endure to reach that happiness and what is that happiness really? In my running I have been able to discern what makes me happy and what doesn’t and what I’m willing to do and not do for the success I wish to achieve. It’s harder in all the other areas of my personal life. I have never taken a chance to determine what truly brings me happiness and what I’m willing to suffer through. It’s been more of a stream of suffering to get get through things time after time after time. I have a lot of work to do yet in my life. Thanks for reposting this Ms. Ritz 🙂

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    • Yes, it’s not easy to define what we want and how much we want it. And living with our decisions can be scary too, will we regret not opening those doors later on? Will we think we put too much effort into something we didn’t really think was worth the effort? Well, I think it takes a while to get to know exactly where we draw our own personal line. I think about this every day, with every choice. It’s never easy but I’ve learned to say F** it much easier and feel ok about it. Good luck 😉

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  16. The way you express yourself is truly a gift that compliments the runner in you perfectly. This all make so much sense, and I wish I could read it as I wrote it myself. I’m not quite there, yet.. But heck, this isn’t the first time I’ve read something of yours thinking, “wow, I wish I could do that!”

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  17. Maybe I’d think differently if I thought I had the potential to be an elite runner, but I agree with you that I want running to add to my life as a whole, not BE my whole life.

    Great post. Although I’m not sure I’m convinced about the ice baths. 😉

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  18. Great post thanks for sharing. Life is definitely meant to be lived and enjoyed. I’m pretty sure no one will go to their grave saying “man I wish I had that one more PR”. However crucial moments in life you can never get back are to be cherished. Thanks!

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