I imagine when your life starts exhibiting similarities to Gilligan's Island, it's not, you know, a great sign.
'Tis the season for recovery and pie and the first recalcitrant steps of our annual foray into the world of thermal… everything. And as the snot on the chamois cloth thumb of our (thermal) gloves begins to freeze, the murky and rather disagreeable memory of last winter's Polar Vortex arrives.
Why is it so cold? Is it always this cold? Great googly moogly. It's only going to get colder.
And yet we adjust to the change, like we do every year, by doing something cheerfully rash—like signing up for Rock 'n' Roll San Diego or something balmy like that. It's a knee-jerk response to our seasonal martyrdom: Nothing warms the soul (and defrosts the chamois cloth) like a spring marathon!
Runners. We are buoys of optimism. Reactionary buoys of optimism.
This overflow of optimism is, of course, why I can sign up for marathons, year after year, fully expecting to run the PR that I have repeatedly failed to run. I'm not going to tell you how many marathons I've raced with the sole purpose of setting this PR, but it's six. Six times I've come up short. By one minute. By seven minutes. By 48 seconds. I've had good races. I've had bad races. But I haven't yet had the race. I know it's in me. I know I can do it. I just haven't. Yet.
I'm beginning to think I'm the Gilligan's Island of running.
Let's discuss this three-hour tour gone awry, shall we? Seriously. How did those guysnot get off the island? I mean, the Professor managed to build a radio out of coconuts, a lie detector out of bamboo, and nitroglycerin out of papaya.
But the guy couldn't fix a hole in a boat? Seems a little fishy. And what about all those visitors who managed to get off the island? Why didn't they help Gilligan and his posse get off the island, too? Heck, even Kurt Russell managed to escape via hot air balloon within the confines of a half-hour.
And yet, despite their repeated and suspicious inability to escape the island, the crew of the S.S. Minnow persisted with remarkable hope. And coconuts.
This past year—after many, many failed attempts—I managed to PR at the 5K and half marathon distances. By the time October rolled around, I was cautiously confident in my ability to finally PR the marathon.
Instead, somewhere around mile 23, I ran out of coconuts.
Undeterred, I spent most of the next 24 hours foam-rolling and sketching out a two-year racing plan, beginning with—what else?—a spring race. Two races, actually.
Okay, so you'll run a half in March as a warm-up race. Actually, why don't you train to PR the half in March? (I'm a very optimistic planner.) Then you can run the full in Illinois. Flat as a pancake! Perfect for a PR. Oh, here's another flat course in the fall! You can PR there, too! Maybe you could even PR in Boston after that! And then New York!
Within a matter of minutes, I had daydreamed myself right into the bumper of the lead vehicle at the Olympic trials.
There I was, sitting on the couch, eating brownie batter straight from the bowl, less than 24 hours removed from imploding on my 6th PR attempt, and I had no problem imagining myself the next Paula Radcliffe.
Yes, it's hard to sink a buoy. And that's okay.
Diana Nyad once said, “The ultimate high of life is the commitment to pursuing something." She would know. Last year, she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. It was her fifth attempt. Her four previous bids had been forcibly ended by strong currents, gale-force winds, poisonous box jellyfish, and Portuguese man o' wars. The swim from Havana to Key West covered 110 miles. It took nearly 53 hours.
She was 64.
The words endurance and persistenceare synonymous. If you are an endurance athlete, you are also a persistence athlete. You were made to continue, to withstand, to carry on despite difficulty and opposition. It's not supposed to be easy. As Webster's dictionary put it, endurance is “the power of enduring an unpleasant process." (Ha. Now they tell us.)
Winston Churchill once stated, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." If that's the case, I think we can all learn something from the crew of the S.S. Minnow: Keep trying. Period. It doesn't matter if everyone else around you is somehow escaping the island. It doesn't matter if your plans are bungled on a weekly basis. Keep trying. Goals are made to be chased. Sometimes you'll catch them. Sometimes you won't. The key is to be persistent.
And some coconuts wouldn't hurt either.