You frustrate me. I can’t even begin to tell you all the goals I have in mind. Does it matter? What is it worth to you what I do? I’m not special. I don’t have obvious, natural ability – far from it. But why do you care enough to say I can’t? Just let me run, let me try. I understand my efforts may seem futile, but this is a passion I’m choosing to pursue.
There are layers to why I run. On the surface, it’s because I enjoy it as a way to stay active, healthy, and fit. It’s the simplest form of exercise and relatively inexpensive. Psychologically, I need the chemicals activity produces. It clears my mind and is good for my brain.
The second layer is because running is HARD, and improvement and growth in the sport feels limitless. I was never great in the sports I played growing up. As much as I wanted to be really good, I wasn’t. Eventually I lost interest in them because I never had the drive or dedication to be that kind of good – not like the way I do now, to know what fast feels like. I love learning about all the different aspects of running, and how to be the most efficient. It’s one thing to read all about the “right way” to run, train, eat, etc. but when you actually get to feel the progress and your body changing and adapting, working how it’s supposed to…it’s incredible. I love to tinker with theories and formulas and look at all the difference factors that affect running performance and keep us human. We will never be a machine (naturally and clean) but I love the thought of seeing how close I can get. I’m chasing after perfection, even though I know I will never reach it. The clock is ticking as our bodies age and deteriorate. For me, it’s a race to see how far I can get before time runs out and I start to decline.
The deepest layer is unknown even to me. I don’t really know why I was made to like hard challenges, or why I have a burning desire to prove you wrong. Nor do I know why specifically distance running gripped me like it did. As I’ve mentioned, it’s not like I’ve been set up for it – not the genes, no head start in track or cross country, no natural flow to form. The odds of this ever working out are slim. Even if it does, even if I “make it” to the professional level, there’s not a lot of glory or money in it. The USATF is nowhere near the level of fame and fortune as the NFL, NBA, or even MLB. All I can tell you is that so far in my life, there have been three things that I’ve felt an in-explainable, irrational, but irresistible pull towards. And being a competitive distance runner is one of them. I don’t have to know what the underlying purpose is right now. Maybe I never will. But for the time being I have peace knowing I’m doing what I should be doing, and that’s enough for me.
I cannot ignore the other side of this. I ask you why you care, but I must ask myself why I care that you care. The fact that what you say bothers me is probably more frustrating. Is your lack of faith in me that disheartening? I’ve always been good at self-motivating, not needing much spurring. Peer pressure isn’t something that holds much power in my life. So why does your judgement get me worked up? Do I really need you to believe in me? Don’t get me wrong, discouragement is always hard to hear. I’m not trying to tell you I’m a robot and remain indifferent and unaffected by what you say. But what you think does not dictate what I can or will do. You may hinder, you may help, but at the end of the day the task is still mine to accomplish. Knowing this, I couldn’t understand why it bothered me so much to see and hear your doubts. Then one day I was walking home from a workout and I realized something. Maybe I do need something from you. Maybe it’s not about you believing in me, but about you believing in you – because I am you.
I think a lot of people end up choosing to do what comes easiest or what they were born into, not necessarily what they want to do. Their passions and true potential become a dream, an “if only,” or sometimes just a hobby. But if I can do this then so can you. If I can make a go of this without a “leg up” or head start, without being born into it, what’s stopping you from pursuing what you truly feel passionate about? Without reservation, without hesitation, what if you pursued your passions with more than you have to offer, with more than what the world thinks you have. What were you born to become?