Over my nearly 40 years of running, I've raced in some pretty gnarly conditions. Those races are never about time, and rarely even about place. They are the “survival” events that show one's mettle.
Nobody complained. Not one single person. Sleet starting to fall, 34 degrees at the start, a cold wind on the back stretch, and nobody complained. There were a few “Wow, it’s cold” or “That wind is crazy” remarks but those are observations, not complaints.
There were 11 of us getting ready for the first speed session of the spring track season. It was the first official day of spring, and the forecast called for “ugly” (and by the way, “ugly” is an official meteorological term). Oh, and it was nor’easter #4. Yeah, last month.
Over my nearly 40 years of running, I’ve raced in some pretty gnarly conditions. Those races are never about time, and rarely even about place. They are the “survival” events that show one’s mettle. I may have invented the term “sticktuitiveness” in a “Thoughts on the Run” column a few years ago but that’s an appropriate term. Wind chills of 10 below or heat indices above 100. And there was a Boston Marathon a few years ago run in very similar nor’easter conditions as we’ve experienced most of March! “Sticktuitiveness” is probably an understatement.
I’ve made it a point over my years as a runner to differentiate between observations and complaints. “It’s hot out today” is an observation.“This heat is ridiculous” borders on complaining. And finally, “No way, Shearer!” is an out-and-out whine!
Let me again preface my statements here by saying that safety always comes first. Always. I would never recommend someone else train or race in conditions deemed “unwise” or even unhealthy. But… there are times when we simply must test our resolve and push the envelope of foolishness. Without whining, of course.
The aforementioned Boston Marathon was held in 2007, in nor’easter like conditions. Wind, rain & ice, cold, downed power lines – and all for the entire field of 25,000+. In fact, race organizers almost canceled the event! See, nobody in a race gets preferential weather treatment. We ALL get to run in the same ick. But these are the events that everyone who is associated will talk about forever. It’s a race they will remember.
My worst race event was held in March 1994, in Atlantic City. It was a point-to-point 10-mile event, held in similar conditions to the 2007 Boston race. In fact (and those who know me will realize just how bad it was…) I wore tights to race. There were no water stops, since the water all froze, and the wind chills were 10 below. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Maybe my mind is clouded with freezer burn, but I don’t recall a lot of whining that day, or the day of the 2007 Boston race. There were some doubters who weren’t sure about participating safely, but it was definitely a no whining zone. We all collectively accepted the conditions that were beyond our control, pinned on our race bibs as best we could, and toed the start line. Oh, and it definitely tested our mettle.
That workout my team did from a few weeks ago helped test their mettle, too. Those are the days that you think “There’s no way I can finish this,” then you do. When race day rolls around, the race itself doesn’t seem that bad after all. Your sticktuitiveness, your mettle, your “no whining” will have paid off!
There’s a mantra that I’ve learned to use over the years that is appropriate for these types of days, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It is at the end of our comfort zone where we truly start to test our limits and bypass our fears. Oh, and we give up whining.
I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails.
Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.