Sometimes I don’t understand my own thinking.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the hardest half marathon I’ve ever done: Drag-N-Fly.
After remembering how hard it was and how miserable I was doing it, I came away with one overwhelming thought: should I do it again?
I actually asked myself the question, “Was it really as bad as I remembered?”
Reconsidering A Miserable, No Good, Bad Run
Why would I seek out things that were not all that enjoyable the first time around and consider doing them again?
I can’t see the direct link, but I feel it’s somehow related to the instinct that makes me smell something awful and immediately turn to the person next to me and say: “This is terrible, here smell it”
Ultimately, I think it’s something in the way marathoners see the world.
‘Fun’ Isn’t Binary
It’s too simplistic to categorize something as ‘fun / not fun’ or ‘enjoyable / not enjoyable’
I recently read a post on another blog about the four types of fun:
- Type 1 Fun: When it’s fun in the moment
- Type 2 Fun: When it is not fun at the time, but it is fun when you look back on it
- Type 3 Fun: When it is not fun for you, but it is fun for others
- Type 4 Fun: When it just isn’t fun for anyone
As an endurance athlete, I think I pretty much live in Type 2 fun.
There are very few parts of marathon training that I would call fun (at least in the ‘ha-ha, spending time at the circus’ kind of fun).
But ‘fun’? Not really.
But looking back is different.
A bit of misery amnesia sets in and the bad details get a little fuzzy.
The pride of completing the race emerges.
Bragging rights are exploited.
Besides, I think the less fun an event is at the time, the better storytelling potential there is after the fact. The more insane the race, the more terrible the weather, the more incomprehensible the elevation gain, the more I’ll be able to tell and retell those stories over beers for years to come.
Milking crazy race stories for anyone who will listen is one of the great joys in my life.
Does that make a miserable race fun?
My future self (telling fun race stories) thanks my suffering current self (trudging up a hill mid-race) for its sacrifice in making sure I have stories to tell.
One Experience Doesn’t Tell the Tale
Some runs are amazing, some are terrible.
Some races go your way, others don’t.
Runners know that no single event (positive or negative) should be the end all be all. Future race choices should never be based on the outcome of a single day.
If I quit running after my first bad run, my running career would have lasted maybe a week.
I have to keep trying.
The outcome will always be different. Some for the better, some for the worse.
My last experience at Drag-N-Fly wasn’t the crowning achievement of my racing career.
That doesn’t define me as a runner, and it shouldn’t prevent me from ever trying it again.
The Satisfaction is as Much in the Preparation as in the Event
The longer I’m a runner, the more I realize that when training long-term for an event like a marathon, the event itself becomes less important than the training and effort to prepare for the event.
The work put in to accomplish the goal is as important, if not more so, than the actual race-day experience.
It’s Not Supposed To Be Easy
What is the cliché (but true) quote? If it were easy, everyone would do it.
And that other one? If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
I’m always a little baffled when I talk to people who want to run a marathon with the least amount of effort and the fewest miles run as possible.
If you are looking for easy, endurance running probably isn’t a great choice of hobby for you.
The fact that it isn’t easy is exactly what makes it worthwhile.
The fact that it isn’t easy is what makes it special.
Doing hard things is what separates us runners from everyone else. Others at the gym may do the all warm-up workout. Spending an hour doing various moves, but never veering into territory that they consider hard, because… well… it’s hard.
We runners enjoying facing our (rarely-easy) challenges dead on and laughing.
Just to be contrarian, I also preach the opposite:
My Return To Dragonfly
Ultimately, I decided to do Drag-N-Fly again.
Maybe it will be as bad as I remember. Maybe it will be a breeze.
Perhaps it will be even worse.
In any case, I know that my level of ‘fun’ on race day is only a very small part of the race experience.
Regardless of how race-day goes, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I trained hard and laughed in the face of a few demons.
And even if everything goes to hell, I’ll double-down and cherry-pick the worst bits for their storytelling potential.
That may almost make it worthwhile.