(I can almost sense you rolling your eyes at this but do bear with me because I’ve given this way more thought than I’m prepared to admit.)
I went to see the One Man Star Wars show on Friday night and it wasn’t actually the lamest thing on Earth, which was what I had mentally prepared for. It was pretty funny so if you’re a bit of a Star Wars fan and can go see it, you should. Then you can do the same thing I did afterwards: go out for dinner and figure out how many Star Wars quotes you get into the conversation before it stops making sense (surprisingly, quite a few).
Since there’s absolutely nothing I can’t relate to running these days, of course I’m writing a post relating Star Wars to endurance running. Star Wars is awesome and full of wisdom and it totally relates to endurance running (and not just in the sense that I sound like Darth Vader when running uphill). You might think this makes no sense, and you’re probably right, but be nice and read on because I made a list for you:
1. Endurance running requires a lot of patience
“I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.” – Yoda
Poor Yoda is a fountain of wisdom but has trouble teaching Luke Skywalker because Luke is a bit impatient. Good thing Luke is a Jedi because he’d be shit at endurance running if he was a regular human being. For us, regular folk, endurance running is about “relentless forward progress” and it’s not something you can get to immediately but rather something you work hard towards achieving. If you don’t have the patience to wait a long time before seeing any big results, you’re better off pursuing an interest that is a little less challenging, like Candy Crush Saga or something. Yoda knows this. Clever little cookie, he is.
2. The harder the training, the bigger the benefits
“Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
The path to becoming an endurance runner is filled with amazing long runs but also a fair deal of pretty shitty I-might-just-turn-around-and-run-back-home-and-eat-some-cake-instead runs. I know that because I’ve had my fair share of both, and have painful memories of some of the bad ones. Bad runs willl only make you a better, smarter endurance runner (or, at least, that’s what I tell myself). It’s only by making mistakes that you can learn not to make them again. We’ve all been there. We’ve all assumed mint chocolate Gu gels wouldn’t taste like crap. The point is: the tougher the run, the steeper the hill, the more you’ll get out of conquering it. Even if you feel like vomiting your energy gel halfway up the damn thing, you know you’ll be much stronger at the top than you were at the bottom. Easy runs, as nice as they might be, won’t give you nearly as much in return.
3. Believe you can and you’re halfway there
Luke: “I don’t believe it.” Yoda: “That is why you fail.”
It wasn’t that long ago that I used to think that people who said stuff like “believe you can and you’re halfway there” were full of shit but then I went and ran a god damn marathon, which I finished even though I got an inflamed IT band right at the halfway point (that proceeded to drive me to tears for weeks). The run was incredibly hard (not just because I was hurt but also because, in retrospect, I don’t think you can call a couple of slow long runs “training for a marathon”). I honestly can’t believe I actually crossed that finish line and didn’t just ask someone to pick me up from the side of the road instead. If I tried to run a marathon today, I’d fail miserably. That day, however, not finishing was not an option, because of how much I visualised myself finishing, both during the run and the few days before that. When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous how little actual physical fitness has to do with it. My point – or rather, Yoda’s point – is that if you tell yourself you’re going to run a freaking marathon, you bet your ass you’re going to run it right to the end, even if your leg hurts so much you feel like you’re crippling yourself in the process.
4. Make your own path
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” – Yoda
There is so much advice out there about what good running is that it’s hard to keep up and for every theory there’s another one contradicting the first. Don’t make the mistake of blindly following advice from magazines or any of those places (definitely don’t take advice from me because I really have no clue about anything, in general). Forget everything you’ve read, listen to your body and do what feels right. If three bags of jelly beans is what you need to eat at 6am to get you through your long run, then enjoy the hell out of those jelly beans (except the black ones, they’re disgusting, throw them out). Who cares if you’re running barefoot or in running shoes? No one cares, really. And you shouldn’t either. Run as fast or as slow as it makes you happy, as often as you feel like it, wearing whatever you want. You don’t have to drink green smoothies or protein shakes to be a good runner or even do a single fartlek in your entire life (you can and should, however, drop the word fartlek into every possible conversation, because why wouldn’t you?).
5. Do it
“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
Of course you could see this one coming from miles away (from a galaxy far, far away? Ok, I’ll stop now). The attitude endurance runners have towards running kind of mirrors the attitude people who have their lives together have about life (I mean, I guess. I don’t know. Ask them). But really, the only way I’m going to run an ultramarathon in OMFG 227 DAYS! is by convincing myself that it is definitely going to happen. I’m not going to “try to run it”. I’m going to smash the damn thing, even if I stay on this Whittaker’s chocolate diet I’ve been on and become the first Jabba the Hutt-shaped human to do so. And now I’ve got 227 days to convince myself of what I just said.