Yesterday my training plan called for a fairly challenging workout: 2 x 3 miles at goal half marathon pace. This was not my longest race-pace workout: last week I ran 9 miles with 7 miles at goal pace. However, yesterday’s workout proved to be one of the most difficult workouts during this entire training cycle because of a factor completely beyond my control: the weather.
When I left for my run, it was 40 degrees outside with 96% humidity and winds in the 18-22 mph range. If you’re from the Chicago or Northwest Indiana area, you’ll know that winds here seem to come from all directions. I ran this particular workout on a ¾ mile loop, and there was only one direction where I felt I was not being forced back by a fierce headwind.
After a 2 mile warm-up that didn’t feel too bad, I picked up my pace for the first 3-mile repeat. I told myself it was okay if I didn’t hit great paces—high humidity and strong winds each on their own require more effort to maintain the same pace.
The first mile ticked by: 7:28. Not too bad, I told myself. But then I started getting progressively slower as the wind got stronger: 7:33. 7:31. I finished the first repeat and seriously considered altering my workout, heading home to finish it on the treadmill, or even just calling it a day.
I’m not one to quit though. I tend to avoid talking too much about my background on this blog, because I don’t want to bore my readers. In the past couple year, I wanted to quit several times, just like I did during this workout. See, I spent the past two years in earning my master’s degree in historical theology, church history, or whatever you want to call it. The work itself was challenging, but it was never the 135-page thesis, the multiple dead languages I studied, or the countless number of books I read each week that made we want to quit. If I’ve been good at anything my whole life, it’s been learning. I’m a natural student. I did equally well at calculus as I did at Latin. And if a subject didn’t come naturally to me, I studied and studied until I understood it.
What made me want to quit graduate school over and over again was the environment. Academically, I was doing great and finished my program with a perfect 4.0. The competitive nature of academia and the environment of graduate school was really rough on me. I wanted to quit so many times. But whenever that sensation came over me, that I couldn’t keep on doing this, that I wanted to be done, that it wouldn’t be a huge financial loss if I quit, a deeper part of my brain would take over: I don’t quit.
If those two years taught me anything, it is nothing that I learned from my books or professors. What I learned in graduate school with resilience and perseverance.
So back to my run yesterday: as I started to pick up my pace for my second 3-mile repeat, I repeated those two words to myself: resilience, perseverance. Yes, the wind nearly knocked me off the path a couple times, but I knew deep down that my resilience and perseverance could make me stronger than the awful wind.
7:37. As another mile ticked by, I wanted to quit so desperately. Just two more miles, I told myself, two more miles. Two miles is a decent distance, but in the determined brain of a distance runner, I told myself that it wasn’t far to go at all. 7:32. I kept pushing, but a particularly nasty gust of wind causes me to stop in my tracks. I can’t keep going, I thought, this wind is getting the best of me. But then I told myself, no, I am resilient, and that means I keep going despite the forces opposing me.
I finished the final mile in 7:29. My quads were burning and my core is shaking. But I did it. I persevered through the wind, humidity, and that part of my brain that tells me just to quit.
Resilience most literally means the ability to resume the original position after being bent, compressed, or deformed. An object that is resilient has elasticity and can easily bounce back to its original shape. Thus a person who resilient can recover from obstacles and misfortunes and keep moving forward. A person who is resilient is not emotionally or physically fragile; a bad day, tragic event, or series of trials does not completely derail them. I think the blog Art of Manliness (which has a lot of valuable articles even if you’re a woman) says it best:
“Resiliency is the ability to face setbacks, failures, crises, and pain (both emotional and physical) with confidence and courage. It is the ability to quickly bounce back from our trials and tragedies. It’s the quality that keeps us from giving up, even when the going gets rough. It’s the ability to stick with something through thick and thin and the power to overcome the temptation to bail out when things stop being easy.” (from “Building Your Resiliency”).
People who are resilient are also perseverant, as perseverance is the continued and steadfast effort towards a goal despite difficulties and setbacks. Resilience is what makes you pick yourself back up; perseverance is what keeps you moving forward.
Whether your goal is to run a mile for the first time or run a sub-3 hour marathon, you need the qualities of resilience and perseverance to achieve your goals. Whether you are a brand-new runner or an experienced marathoner, you have and will continue to encounter those moments when you just want to quit.
For beginners, establishing a regular routine of running or running 30 minutes at a time is tough. There are days where you simply do not feel up to running, either mentally or physically; there are days where the weather is less than conducive to running; and there are days where running is harder than normal. Each time you get out there and run, each mile you run without stopping, builds your resilience and perseverance so that you can continue to push forward in the future. You practice resilience each time you silence those negative voices in your head that tell you you aren’t capable of running for two or three or however many miles straight. In fact, resilience and perseverance are the tools used to conquer those negative voices.
The trials and setbacks don’t stop even when you’ve been running for years and logged countless miles. There will always be those workouts or even daily easy runs where you just want to quit, go back home, and crawl back under the covers. There will be days where you don’t know how you’re going to hit your goal pace in a race. Oftentimes, what separates the runners who achieve big and grand goals from those who don’t is not natural talent; it’s the resilience to keep pushing forward when running isn’t easy and the perseverance to chase after those goals despite obstacles and off days.
I know resilience and perseverance are worlds easier said than done. It is easier to talk about resilience and not quitting than to actually not quit and keep pushing when you want nothing more in the moment than to quit during a hard run. Resilience is something you must acquire only through practice, through not quitting when you want to. Even if you do quit during a particular rough workout, perseverance is built when you don’t let one bad run derail you from your goals.
There’s one line from a poem called Invictus that I often repeat as a mantra when I really feel like external factors, fatigue, or my own weaknesses are going to get the best of me during a run. “I am the master of my fate.” I repeat it over and over again, because to me it means exactly what resilience and perseverance look like: no matter what the circumstances, I am the one ultimately in charge of the outcome.
As with many things, what is true for running is true for life. Resilience and perseverance are qualities that running can teach us and that we can use in all other aspects of life.
Questions of the Day:
How do you keep moving forward when you want to quit?
Do you have a special running mantra for when running gets tough?