Guest Columnist and runner, Anjana Mohan, talks about how you must consider building your running goals keeping in mind other facets of your life.
Chasing a time target presents fantastic opportunities to push oneself to new limits, train muscles to work hard and sustain mental effort. Improvements in speed offer immense satisfaction and accomplishment. It can become addictive and spawn a pursuit of personal bests (measured as timing). These self-evolutionary goals undoubtedly bring joy and benefits. However, I submit that the pursuit of speed is fundamentally competitive (even if it is only with oneself) and therefore poses great risks.
The simplest manifestation is the effect of both achievement and failure. The goal-driven nature of speed creates an obligatory ending once the target is achieved, or sometimes when it has failed. Continuity has to be artificially created. The endorphin high of success can only be sustained by setting new competitive goals, which will plateau over time to cause frustrations, or injury when ambition reaches past ability.
Culture of Speed
The culture of speed is ignorant of the unique nature of individual bodies, minds, and lives. We compete against others or the clock as absolutes. We consider performance in isolation rather than placing it in balance within the context of our daily lives, physiology, emotions, and efforts. We superficially correlate speed with mental fortitude disregarding many factors.
Even when a runner “competes with oneself” they are ultimately dialoguing with their own ego. Competition can bring out one’s best but also insidiously normalizes feeding and sustaining some vanity. This spiritual corrosion restrains runners from discovering their depth. The fastest runs lose the meditative beauty of time collapsing to yield to the aliveness and energy of every moment. Interval training is sweatily self-absorbed. Bob Marley said, “Some people feel the rain and some just get wet”. Running offers room for both and its best value is when it can be woven into the network of the various facets of your life.
Although both competition and goals can be set iteratively and repeatedly over the life of a leisure athlete, they are fragile and vulnerable to many fatal forces. Running endures maturely when balanced to fold into a fitness strategy for one’s life. While speed may be a useful measure of how well you are pushing yourself, letting it dominate your running can destroy its own fundamental foundations. Consider balancing effort and pleasure. Redefine a new personal best “joy” within the changing context of your life.
Timings and medals are easy metrics. There aren’t easy ways to measure success by the criteria of whether or not a habit will sustain over a human lifetime. We are conditioned to seek bursts of brilliance or intermediate intensities (endorphins and dopamine). But long-distance running’s most powerful lesson is the opposite ‐ the slow, sustained spirit. Serotonin and oxytocin associated with falling in love can come from running, enjoying the trail and company. The meditative aliveness that becomes a part of your personality has more to offer your spiritual growth than any podium, PB time or prize. The seduction of speed should remain subservient to the enduring desire to keep on running.
*The views expressed herewith reflect her personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of any group*
Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from the couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars