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Thoughts on the Run: Developing hope

Andy Shearer
Middletown Transcript

In 1975, one of my all-time favorite albums was released. My mother, sister and I played it over and over and over and over. No, “Dark Side of the Moon” was released in 1973. Sorry. This one was by Carole King, with lyrics by Maurice Sendak, entitled “Really Rosie.” If you know it, you’re smiling right now.

My mother’s favorite song on the album is entitled “Such Sufferin.’” In her defense, she was a single mother raising two kids in the 1970s, so it was probably appropriate, especially when one of those kids was me. “Oh such sufferin,’ give me a bufferin.’”

A recent church Bible reading came from the book of Romans, chapter 5: “We know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produced character, and character produces hope.” What is with all this suffering? Can’t a guy (or gal) just run?

First off, suffering is a relative term. Endurance athletes who attempt the Kona Ironman or the Badwater 135 “suffer” in ways that us mere mortal athletes cannot fathom. But they’re weird to begin with. The kind of suffering I’m talking about is that of the regular training regimen and lifestyle that is certainly required for improvement, in whatever form that might take. Getting faster? Getting fitter? Losing weight? Improving mental health? It’s all of these and more. And we HOPE we can get to those end goals.

To me, suffering is the same as commitment. In order to reach hope, we have to not only commit, but stick with the commitment for more than the typical three weeks. Suffering may come in the form of an earlier wake-up time, or earlier bedtime. It might be fewer nights out with the gang, or less pizza, more fish.

Suffering can also take the form of consistent training. That daily 3, 4, or 5-mile run, those weekend group training sessions, or perhaps meeting with a personal trainer once a week. Remember, suffering leads to perseverance. As we persevere through our suffering, we develop the character necessary to continue when the training gets hard or we mentally want to give up.

So what is the end result of all of this suffering and developed character? None of us start down this running road without a reason. I honestly know of no one who ever started running “just because.” In the end, there is a hope, a goal, a dream or a desire that drives us to suffer. This is one of those “if A, then B, if B, then C” mathematical things. But it’s true. And if you think about your own journey right now, I bet you can find those points when suffering led to perseverance, which led to character. (No, I can’t go out tonight. I have a race tomorrow.)

The end result is our hope. And it is what makes the suffering worthwhile. Hope and goals are not static, however. They, too, must evolve just as your suffering has to evolve. That definition of insanity comes to mind, how doing what you’ve always done will lead to getting what you’ve always gotten. Last month I mentioned the law of diminishing returns and that 5-7 year window for improvement.

As we all persevere through these pandemic times, with events and races being canceled left and right (New York City’s 5-borough tour was the latest big ticket item to be scratched), know that whatever suffering you are bearing now (training, good healthy habits, etc…) will eventually lead to that hope. It is never a waste to build character.

By the way, my favorite songs from the “Really Rosie” album were “Eating Chicken Soup with Rice” and “Pierre.” Not a knock against Pink Floyd, but Ms. King and Mr. Sendak know how to write ‘em. Smile on, Really Rosie fans!

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.