* Contributed by Jeff Henderson - MIT Head Coach
John L. Parker’s Once a Runner follows a fictional elite collegerunner, Quenton Cassidy. Cassidy is a sub-4 minute miler, and Olympic Gold Medal contender who professes a "secret." The secret is that there is no secret. There is simply a trial of miles and miles of trials. Every day we make choices and one of the choices that we all have in common is that, more often than not, we chose to lace up our shoes and head out the door for our own trial of miles. In Once a Runner, Cassidy references his trial of miles by saying:
It is simply that we can all be good boys and wear our letter sweaters around and get our little degrees and find some nice girl to settle, you know, down with... take up what a friend of ours calls the hearty challenges of lawn care...Or we can blaze! Become legends in our own time, strike fear in the heart of mediocre talent everywhere! We can scald dogs, put records out of reach! Make the stands gasp as we blow into an unearthly kick from three hundred yards out! We can become God's own messengers delivering the dreaded scrolls! We can race dark Satan himself till he wheezes fiery cinders down the back straightaway....They'll speak our names in hushed tones, 'those guys are animals' they'll say! We can lay it on the line, bust a gut, show them a clean pair of heels. We can sprint the turn on a spring breeze and feel the winter leave our feet! We can, by God, let our demons loose and just wail on!
We each have our own trial of miles, and we all have our own battles to overcome. I certainly don’t expect that our battles are to “scald dogs” or to “race dark Satan himself,” but I do expect that there is a fire burning in each of us that drives us to get out the door each day!
My own trial of miles has been a pretty bumpy path to say the least, and my own personal battles have evolved over the years. The passion that shoves me out the door today is a completely different animal than it was 15 years ago. I’m sure many of you could say the same.
Whatever your reason is to get up, get out of bed and out the door for your workout, you should fully embrace it. Often times we may fall into a rut with our training. This is when those motivating factors become even more important. If you find yourself dreading an upcoming workout, think of what drives you. Then, simply walk out the door.
I find that when I am really struggling with motivation, simply lacing up my shoes often does the trick. Years ago it was the images burnt in my head of my rivals on the track and cross country course. Today, it is more of a release, or an escape from my daily toil. Even the workouts that I dread throughout the day or the night before bring me the greatest sense of elation as soon as I get started.
Then come the days when I know that I’d be better off not running. Those are the days I leave the shoes on the shelf and I hop on my bike, or take my dog for a day hike. If my body is really telling me it’s time for a break, I spend the day floating in my kayak, reading a book or just enjoying one my favorite movies.
It is all cumulative. Days, weeks, months, and years of mileage add up. Your trial of miles will differ from your training partner. You may need additional rest days or cross training days, while your training partner doesn’t. You may discover that a long bike ride benefits you more than an easy recovery run. This is YOUR trial of miles. So, what drives you?