I became a runner for only one reason. It scared the hell out of me. Since childhood, distance running terrified me. I don’t know why. Probably because I was fat, that’s almost always the reason.
The thought of being somewhere out in the middle of a trail at mile 16-ish completely gassed out but still having 10 more miles to go; even now I have to remind myself to breathe when thinking about it. That was the fear I had and that was why I started running. I wanted to face that fear head on.
As I continued in my training I eventually came to that exact point. I was at mile 16 completely gassed out with way more road ahead of me. What was I going to do? Well, here’s the thing, that wasn’t my first day running. I had been training for months so when that scary moment hit I was unfazed. My instinct took over and I did the only thing I knew to do.
“One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three.” I counted off each step as I steadied my breath. My back straightened and I settled into my pace.
The truth is that I ran mile 16 exactly like I ran mile 15. Why? Because when you are out in the wasteland, that vast chasm between the starting line and the finish, mile 16 doesn’t suck any more than mile 15 and it doesn’t suck any less than mile 17. It all hurts so you might as well just keep moving toward your finish line.
Keep moving forward!
That sentence has now become one of the immutable laws that guide my life. It’s much more than a sentence. It’s a command, a battle cry that comes from deep within me buried under these layers of depression. Somewhere under all this crap part of me continues to scream that we must keep going.
Moving forward will hurt
I won’t romanticize this at all. When you force yourself to move forward despite your circumstances it isn’t a head held high moment. It is a crawl or quit moment. You’re gassed out. You’ve been at it too long to turn back but the finish line is too far away to bare. So what do you do? You just keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other until you’re done.
Look, if you want to quit then quit. Bag the run, do what you want. But if you want to stay in your fight and work toward that day when things are finally better, you don’t have any other option. Keep moving toward that day.
“Running, always you have to keep going, going.” – Hyvon Ngetich
Moving forward gets ugly
This past season I spent a good amount of time watching Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. I love watching an entire defense collapse on top of him just as he crosses the line of scrimmage. It always looks like a dead play but not with him.
Right as the defense jumps him you see this overwhelming pile of guys move, against their collective will, ten yards closer to the end zone. Marshawn keeps moving and he drags everybody else with him. It never looks quite as pretty as an impossible catch or a huge return but it gets results. In its own way it IS beautiful.
That’s how we have to be with our fight. The world isn’t built for people with depression. We have to learn to put up with it somehow. Often when the first thing goes wrong we panic and bail. It’s like that first ache in your knee when you’re on a run. “Oh crap, is this it? Am I going to have to quit?” But we just keep going. We immerse ourselves in the suck and we keep moving forward.
We’ve all seen footage of injured runners who don’t quit during a race. It’s never pretty but in its own way their defiance becomes beautiful. They refuse to let the reality of that moment keep them from the finish line.
Most recently Hyvon Ngetich painfully inspired us in Austin. Take a look at this.
My training for New York has not gone according to plan. My depression has already cost me more training days than I ever imagined but I’m still going to lace up my shoes and go for another run this morning. It’s going to be cold and I’m going to be sore because I haven’t run for a couple weeks but that’s moving forward.
This whole thing, my struggle, may be ugly and painful but continuing to move forward is how I will eventually win.
“…it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” – Rocky Balboa
Whether it’s a training run, a race, or your life, you can’t lose if you don’t stop.
By the way, if you’re interested you can read more on Hyvon Ngetich’s incredible finish over at Runner’s World.