Passion is a word we frequently hear when people talk about their professional work or their hobbies. Their passion motivates them to work hard and pursue their goals. Being driven by one’s passion can lead to amazing achievements but it also can lead to burn-out. In order to stay motivated, we need to ensure our passions do not dominate our lives to the point of being detrimental. I have learned this with my passion for running.
A couple weeks ago I came home from my last half marathon really tired. Perhaps it was Transverse Myelitis (TM) reminding me that it rules a big part of my life. Or maybe it was the fact that I had run a lot of races in a short span of time. I wasn’t tired of racing – I had fun traveling to races over the last few months. I was just physically tired. Either way, I knew I needed some R&R.
As my massage therapist, Jen, worked on my sore muscles, I explained to her that I was taking a breather from running. Jen knows me too well. With a raised eyebrow she asked me when I last ran. “Oh, two days ago I ran 6 miles and I plan to run a 4-mile race on Saturday night” I replied. She laughed, “That’s not a breather. That is just a breath! You need a real break.” Score one Jen.
When I ran that 4-mile race, it was very hot. TM doesn’t like heat and my legs felt like lead weights. During the whole race, I was questioning why I was running. This was stupid. I could be home in the air conditioning, watching tv. As soon as I finished the race, I grabbed a bottle of water and headed home. Later that night when I pulled up the race results, I discovered I had come in first in my age group – that never happens. The first time I win my age group and I hadn’t even stayed for the awards ceremony!
On my training schedule for the next week, my running coach planned a week of R&R. She only included activities like stretching, yoga, getting a pedicure, and walking the dogs. I hadn’t taken time off from running since I broke my arm over 18 months ago. It was strange not getting up early 3 times a week to head out for a run. I didn’t think about my next race. I couldn’t get my brain focused to write my Funatical Runner blog. On the positive side, I didn’t have piles of soggy running gear waiting to be washed. Sleeping in felt pretty good too.
I started to wonder if I really wanted to keep running. It didn’t help that I read an article by Daniel Engber, a columnist for “Slate”, on why he thinks running is a “risky, fruitless hobby.” According to Daniel, runners could spend time doing so many other more useful things in the hours they would have spent on “worthless locomotion”. Instead of spending hours training, he suggested runners could do things like learn a new skill to start a new career or perform a community service. He introduced the idea of the “Anti-Marathon” – getting runners to focus on activities with “better and more lasting” use.
I have to admit. I gave some thought to what Daniel wrote. Perhaps he was right. The world was my oyster – I could do anything. I could learn to paint or take up photography. I could do things where I didn’t physically hurt when I was done. I started asking people to suggest new hobbies. I got plenty of suggestions but nothing really interested me.
One day as I was driving I heard the song “I Lived” by One Republic. I included their video for that song in an earlier post. Hearing that song made me remember why I run. It may be work to train for a race but it is exhilarating to cross a finish line. Yes, I could have traveled as a tourist to Berlin, Tokyo, London, Utah, Vermont, or the many other places I have gone for races. But experiencing these places as part of a race is different than strolling through them on a sightseeing tour. I see them with a totally different set of eyes. More importantly, running is keeping me healthy.
I started running again this week. It was still hot but I found ways to stay cool as I ran 11 miles the other day. I felt energized at the end. The way it should be.
Whatever your passion may be, it is healthy to step back and take a break. It will give you an opportunity to remember what got you started in the first place. More importantly, a break will prevent you from getting to the point where your passion causes suffering instead of joy. By stepping away, though briefly, I was able to remember why running is my passion.