Monday, October 17, 2011


In August, when I first came down with this nasty case of pf I am still battling, I thought quite a bit about patience. I kept telling myself that I needed this injury to learn patience and to prepare for myself for my second life as a runner. I needed this injury to come to grips with the inevitable impact of aging and I needed this injury to remind me that the cocky, arrogant jerk I was in my thirties could be brought down to size with the burning, painful, debilitating inflammation in my foot that is not much bigger than a quarter but has now persisted for two months. I admit it now, I needed this injury.

And now, it needs to go away!

I think, at this point, I am doing all the right things and I have been able to run for 10 minutes, flat and straight, each day for the last two days (at a blazing 9 minute per mile pace). Never mind the fact that putting on my shoes takes longer than the actual run, I am running again, and that's good -- not just for me but for everyone around me. One foot in front of the other, baby steps, like starting over again at 44 years old.

More to the point, this necessary patience in my life has brought to bear something that is so essential for all of us to learn to live in this world as erratic humans. For too long in modern American society we have been in a place where immediate gratification is what it's all about. The what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude seems to pervade everything. We're left to wonder what's next and how can we get ahead of it. We just start to figure out the iPhone4 and everyone tells us we need to get the iPhone5, or whatever, you know what I mean. But patience, true patience, that is a really good teacher. In many ways, it's the best teacher.

Back to August... Remember the World Track Championships? Remember Usain Bolt's false start in the 100 meter final? Man, the guy had been invincible and all of a sudden he was walking off the track and giving the championship to someone else. Furthermore, he had to wait an agonizing five days for his next race.

In the end, his impatience taught him patience.

And maybe that's the ultimate lesson for all of us these days. Because running, especially long-distance ultramarathon running, is all about patience. If it can impact a sprinter it can certainly the rest of us who slog out of Squaw on the last Saturday in June and, at best, arrive in Auburn just before sunset. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years, decades, even, to realize our true potential. Dang, how about a 100 year-old man finishing a marathon!

So, stop, pause, reflect, be patient. Maybe your next race will be your best. Maybe not. But it will teach you something. It will teach you how to run, how to live, and how to be. And, it will do it at a time and in a place where oftentimes those things are harder to do than they used to be. That's gotta be good for something!


This American Wife said...

My husband has been battling a case of pf. My heart goes out to you. Nice job on the blog. First time visitor.

GZ said...

I love the success via failure stories. The best successes come after you have learned from failures.

And for me, it usually means a lot of tries. And a lot of relearning (even after successful learning).

AJW said...

Yeah GZ, like this guy

Great job on your first 100

GZ said...

Nice pointer AJW. Definitely a great story with that fella.

My 100 ... well, it might be a stepping stone to learn a lot more patience!

Olga said...

This little thing is nasty and takes forever and ever. There is patience and there is forgetting what life was like before:( I did 2 miles at a time for a couple of weeks. Time to get going already!

Hank Dart said...

You left off the other added benefit of your injury: getting to give Thornley's thighs an ice massage at Grindstone.

Fantastic post, AJW. A few years ago now, I put together a Run Junkie post with 7 tips for completing a first 50 miler. Number 6 - attributed largely to your views on ultra racing - "Patience."

Glad you're able to get back on the trail - even if it's a mile at a time right now. Cheers.

Thomas Bussiere said...

Good post AJW on patience. I'm relearning this from last weekend's NF50 GA.

Jean Pommier said...

When running turns to philosophy... Thanks for sharing, Andy.
Oh well, running *is* a philosophy anyway, right? ;-)
Take care, the Holidays are around the corner, there is plenty of time before ws100!