I like to run road and trail races. They’re the perfect sort of semi-social physical activity that gets me out and about, in the presence of people who also like being out and about, without requiring any deep discussion or idle chit-chat. It’s basically people-watching, but in motion, plus I typically get a t-shirt and a banana out of it.
The point is, I witness a lot of different strategies for dealing with difficult experiences: people who keep their head down and watch their feet, people who ask each other what’s coming up ahead, people who need headphones or earbuds to distract them from the run. People who run alone or with their children, their friends, their partners.
I hear a lot of advice among runners, a lot of kind encouragement and some less kind. I love that runners are so willing to tell strangers, “Great job!” and “You got this!” I don’t always feel so positively about how some runners chivvy their partners or their children into continuing when they’re obviously uncomfortable.
When you’re in distress, physical or mental, and someone tells you, “You just gotta push through,” I want you to stop and ask yourself: do I need to push through? Are there any other options? Maybe I just need to slow down, or take a rest. Maybe I’m in distress because my body is warning me it can’t “just push through.” Or maybe it can, but at what cost?
What are the consequences of stopping as opposed to continuing on, and is there a middle ground?
If you’re running for your life, you’d better push through. But if you’re running for a free banana or a good race photo, maybe it’s worth taking a breather, and being able to run another race instead of killing yourself just to say you finished this one.