I've not had a good year of racing. There have been a few good efforts, but for the most part, I've been out of synch. No worries though, we keep moving ahead.
So there I am, just shy of the two mile point my most recent 5k and actually feeling good! The past two weeks, I'd dialed down somewhat and had removed most of my up tempo stuff in an attempt to get my legs moving under me. It seems to have worked, I thought. I make the left hand turn and there it is… and there's nothing I can do about it.
Is it a cramp? Is it a stitch? Did a dog attack? No, no and no… it's a TRAIN! A big old, slow-moving tanker car train. And it's just starting to roll through town. You have GOT to be kidding me! And thus, the minutes roll by as well as I watch my race (and that of the other 120 or souls entered) head right on down the tracks with it.
Sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to address the circumstances in which you may find yourself. Training for a marathon? Perhaps your first triathlon? Or maybe your very first race? To coin a phrase, stuff happens. Really.
Last month I mentioned the busted water main that occurred just minutes before a major 10k event started, causing a frantic changing of the course as the race unfolded. Maddening and yet, these are circumstances beyond anyone's control — including yours.
Short of placing yourself in a bubble, the odds on getting a cold while training for a marathon are pretty good. You can only control so much. Athletes in general are control freaks. Yes, I admit it. Having a 4+ minute train roll by while we runners commiserated about who to beat up first (and don't worry, most runners can't beat up a three-legged frog) tests one's patience and control. Catch a cold from your 8 year old while you are in a build-up phase? I pity the poor child.
So what do you do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Eventually the water main will get fixed, the train will pass, and you will get rid of your cold. And you will get a chance to run another day. That is the beauty of our sport. There is a tomorrow. And just remember that it's a race and not a life-or-death struggle.
A few of the recent Boston Marathon races have tested the resolve of even the most type B runner. Between nor 'easters and heat waves, things beyond our control can create a feeling of "someone or something is out to ruin my day." But I bet a bunch of money that you are going for a run tomorrow, aren't you? And besides, think of the stories you have from running into a 35-40 mph headwind while the rain beats your face raw. I'm in!
Page 2 of 2 - So as I dialed down my training the past couple of weeks, I also have learned to dial down my control freak nature over the past few years. Running permits us the flexibility and freedom to explore, to travel, to challenge, to improve and to enjoy. We need to guard against it taking control of us to the point of missing the point of it all.
So as we waited for the train to pass, my competitors and I chatted about pumpkin picking with our kids, who was going to win the World Series, and why the donut store was on the other side of the tracks… and then the train passed and we were off again, pursing our passion. And the three-legged frog hopped away happy.
Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andy Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer. Shearer has been running since 1978. His column "runs" the first week of each month.