Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Yin-n-Yang of Distance Running & Life: Patience VS Passion

Patience is a virtue,
One must develop in part,
Passion is like fire,
Ignited in the heart,
Possession of one, not the other,
Is dangerous indeed,
As both of these qualities,
For high level success you'll need.

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

passion - noun
1. ardent love or affection
3. a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object, concept, etc
4. any strongly felt emotion, such as love, hate, envy, etc
6. the object of an intense desire, ardent affection, or enthusiasm

patience - noun
1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay
3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence

If you lack passion, you'll never have the energy nor enthusiasm to accomplish anything great.  In the sport of distance running, if you lack patience, you will consistently flirt with injury & burnout and/or throw race performances away going too hard too early in long races.  So one must examine both elements of this important YIN/YANG to become the best athlete (and human) one can be.

If you are reading this, I'm going to make a simple assertion:

You are committed to being the best* you can be.
*otherwise, this topic/subject would be of no real interest to you

Here's the good news, both of these qualities can be developed, both of them shall ebb and flow over your running career and life.  By being committed to balance between them, you will find a place where you can maximize your results by being focused on quality over quantity, by establishing an economy to your training & racing, with very little excess energy wasted or thrown away.  For the record, I have not mastered either of these things.  I'm overly passionate at times, and maybe too patient, after all, it's a balance between the two that I constantly seek.

Which area do you need to develop to take your running to the next level?  If you lack passion & enthusiasm, the way to develop it is to surround yourself with people passionate about the topic you want to become more passionate about.  Watch inspiring movies on the subject, read good books, immerse yourself in your chosen subject matter.  Running was once a hobby for me, it's now a lifestyle.  If you lack patience, sometimes the balance comes from developing OTHER passions so you aren't putting your eggs all in one basket.  Setting priorities in your goals and having a short term, medium term and long term structure to what you're trying to accomplish can also help a lot.  Also, the realization that patience can be oxymoronic in nature helps. Often times by being patient, what you seek/desire comes to you more quickly.

Certain situations in life will develop patience.  I have had a goal to acquire/earn a Sub-24-Hour Silver Buckle at the Western States 100-Miler, for example, and have only been able to run that race 1 time in the 7-years I've been going after it.  Missed my goal in 2009 by 28 minutes (running 24:28 on a day that topped out around 108-degrees).  I consider missing goals like this a blessing, because it keeps me hungry. Gives me something to work towards, to strive for, to keep the pedal down.  Just another log of inspiration for my fire.  When I didn't get into Western States on my 1st try, I signed up for the Angeles Crest 100-Miler.  No, it didn't matter that Western States often sees nearly 100 people earn a sub-24 buckle (generally 25% of the field, last year a whopping 33% earned one), and Angeles Crest is typically below 10% (you literally have to ADD every silver buckle earned at AC all the way back to 1999, 11 races, to equal the number of silvers earned at WS in 2011).  Does that mean I'd relax my goal?  Nope, a silver buckle at AC became goal #2.  It took 3 attempts (a 26:27 finish, a Mile 49-DNF, and finally squeaking under the wire in 23:51 w/barely 8-min to spare last year).  When one achieves the lofty goal, then it is time to raise the bar.  Don't even THINK of asking me what I'm shooting for at AC this year.  It's classified.

What I'd love to leave you with is this: you are part flesh and part machinery and all heart + soul.  One needs both passion coupled with patience to maximize your potential in order to achieve all you are capable of accomplishing.  What area do you need to work on?  The work will reap many benefits.  Get after it, yo.

"Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in."
Photo by Tyler Olson