TRAINING: Beware Fanaticism

I will be starting my series of articles on how to properly train for mountain running events (and running events in general) this week, but before I even reach that point, I wanted to share a word of warning with you all.

This weekend a very close friend of mine was nice enough to warn me that she (and others) felt I was "withdrawing" from my friends, something very far from my mind, of course, because its my strong belief that man is not a solitary creature.

Long Hours, Strong Dedication
Running is a noble pursuit, it'll give you a strong health and a long life (barring injury or accidents), and it will allow you to energise all those around you for as long as you live.

This is the attraction for me. I plan to run for as long as I live, or live for as long as I run. Whatever comes first. Just like it was the case for my palaeolithic ancestors, once my legs are gone and I can no longer follow the tribe, the natural cycle has come to its end, and I will face it gladly.

But even when pursuing a noble calling (and there are of course, much greater causes than running), one must never forget the present moment and those around us.

To run successfully requires sacrifice. A lot of sacrifice. I gave up most of my nights out, I gave up most of my taste for beer (I operate a max. 3 beverage rule, I'll talk about that another day), I go out and see friends less because I need to set aside extra time to ever-increasing training loads.

That is the price. There is not way around it. And there's no need to kid yourself.

But we cannot sacrifice all, so a balance must be found. I must find this, and so must you if you plan a long happy running life.

The Lone Wolf
I think many runners have in their nature parts of the Lone Wolf.

Particularly the hardier breeds of runners (trail runners, sky runners, mountain runners, etc.) who love the wilds, the dangerous, and who feel most alive when the rain is slamming them like a rag doll, when harsh rocks pound into their foot soles, and when biting winds gnaw through white skin into the core of our strong bones. We are a primal breed, attracted to independence, to silence, and the the deep feeling of solitary connectedness with nature's primordial spirits.

This is no shame, and indeed the world would probably be a better place (for rantings on the terrible state of the world, see my other blog soon) if more spend time running the wilds engaged in silent meditation as they take in the landscape unfolding around them.

But it is also dangerous for man was not made to live alone. I don't think any of us wish to end up as lonely (and slightly mad!) hermits running the mountains to and fro.

So no matter the training you have to put in, make an effort to plan in time for your friends (whenever you have a rest day, whenever your body is crying "stop!", or by placing your training sessions at efficient time slots such as running to or from work, cross-train while you watch your favourite TV-show, do stretches while you take a shower and so on).

Do Not Unto Others As You Wish To Receive Yourself
Generally it is a good idea to treat others like you want to be treated yourself, but not if you know, deep in your Being, that you are by nature a Lone Wolf, a solitary soul who needs only minimum contact.

I have started to recognise this in myself in the last years as I have finally started to settle in myself and found the peace to see what parts of my personality are me and what parts are nothing more than residual patterns of behaviour developed through time from social necessity.

(This transformation has been in no small part thanks to the book "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. I strongly, no adamantly, recommend that anyone who feels even the slightest bit discontent with their life situation read it thoroughly!).

Truth is I have a very on/off need for contact, and have no problems spending long hours all by myself and still be perfectly happy and fulfilled. I do not have any wishes or needs in the traditional sense of the words, and I don't need others to pat me on the back, tell me I'm doing great or anything like that. I also don't need medals or honours to prove to myself that I'm a great runner or that I'm doing well.

These things are certainly nice and they are certainly welcome, but I feel as happy when they are not there as when they are their. As Eckhart Tolle puts it, once you've reached this stage of self-awareness: "You will not be happy if the world suddenly ends, that is impossible, but you will be at peace". I know, for certain, that I will feel such. I accept whatever comes, or I try to change it by constructive action. Everything else is meaningless, and indeed, insane...

But I cannot apply these standards to everyone (and neither do I wish to), different people have different needs, and I think we all do well to remember that. I have friends that I talk to only a few times per year or less (and we're great with that), but some friends differ, some will need more of your attention, and will give you more in return as well (maybe even more than you feel you can readily handle).

When this happens, your first conclusion should not be "the friendship is not worth it", for all friendship is "worth it" (the value of friendship is immeasurable so what will you weigh against it).

In the end, its definitely worth trying to plan around your training, just learn the wisdom to know when you're taken the time off because you're reverting to old lazy habits or because you know, deep in your gut, that you friendship needs some time.

Thanks to my friend for reminding me of this simple notion in my busy training....