Ambition vs. Consistency

When I was younger I tried to keep a journal. I did it because my religion taught that I “should”. Many of my entries started with a comment like, “I haven’t written in [x] days/months/years…” It was an acknowledgment of guilt. Or more accurately: shame. I felt like a failure. Like I wasn’t enough. Each time I promised myself I would be better; do better. I would finally be consistent. It never happened.

As I contemplate resurrecting my blog, I see the same pattern in the few posts I wrote years ago. One comment in particular really caught my attention: “I love to describe myself as ambitious. I think it would be better if I could describe myself as consistent.” That’s from my post titled Atrophy.

Not much has changed. I’m still me. Still ambitious. Still inconsistent. Still start and stop.

As I sit here today, I am 20 pounds heavier than I was when I peaked physically. My longest run in the past month was 8 miles. I’m rehabbing a knee injury. I’ve discovered that I love beer, wine, and cocktails (that’s a story for another day). And overall I am anything but a runner. Anything but athletic.

What happened? I bought a motorcycle. And joined a riding group. And I fell in love. Running took a backseat.

But this only happened a little over a year ago. Well, I guess two years ago. But my last post was July 2015. 4 1/2 years ago. A lot happened during that time. I ran my first marathon. And my second. … And my fifth.

As I closed my Atrophy post, I mentioned that I was hunting for my next marathon attempt. My first attempt was the 2015 Cowtown marathon, but an ankle injury kept me from arriving at the starting line. I decided to try for the Cowtown again and on February 28, 2016 I ran my first marathon. It wasn’t pretty. My ankle injury got in the way again, and it took me 6:02:46 to get to the finish line. That experience deserves it’s own post. Someday. Maybe.

I ran four more marathons, alternating between Cowtown and Chicago. My best time was 4:35. And my most recent, back in Chicago, was around 5:45. Why 5:45? Why so much slower? I blame the motorcycle. And work stress. And family stress. And life.

So now what? I’ll be honest: I hate excusing inconsistency. I hate the fact that I start things only to stop; to get distracted; to get derailed. Before I bought my motorcycle and fell out of love with running, I had my sights set on Boston. I’ve never quit wanting that, but I did eventually give up on it. I decided I wasn’t cut out for it. I decided I was getting too old. My body wasn’t cooperating. Every marathon to date has brought a new injury of some sort. The extra 20 pounds around my middle has brought on a sort of depression. A sense of defeat. Physical evidence that Boston is not in my future. Proof that I am anything but an athlete.

That word, athlete, was a word I started allowing myself to use when I was running marathons and getting faster. As a child I was anything but athletic. I was the kid that got picked last when dividing teams. I was the kid that coaches publicly mocked in sports like baseball and basketball. I did OK at soccer, but nobody cared about soccer. This is another subject that deserves its own post, but when I got to the point where I saw myself as an athlete, or even just athletic, it was a huge thing in my life. And then it vaporized.

And here I sit.

Yes, I’ve always described myself as ambitious. I have the desire to do great things. But I lack the determination to keep doing the small things required to accomplish those great things. I lack consistency.

This sounds like a sob story. But it’s not. It’s just a realization. It’s me coming to terms with my own weakness. I’m OK with weaknesses. In fact, I’m at a place in life where I love to identify weaknesses, fears, and problems. And I love to hit them head on.

So… Every time I run a marathon I either get injured during the training, or I get injured during the race. That’s a weakness. It’s a known fact. So I hired a physical therapist who specializes in runners. He helped me realize that the knee problems I developed during my most recent marathon in Chicago were actually caused by that old ankle injury. I never treated my ankle. Never went to a doctor. And so the problem remains. But I’m working through it. Finally. Six years later.

And the inconsistency? Another weakness. I have NEVER trained for a marathon by actually following the prescribed training plan. I would skip somewhere between 20% – 40% or the workouts. So I was NEVER prepared when I arrived at the starting line, let alone the finish line. My inconsistency is another weakness. Another known fact. So I hired a coach. Someone who will not only create a custom training plan based on my fitness level and my running goals, but also someone I am accountable to. Someone I have to answer to.

What does it all mean? It means that Boston is back in my crosshairs. But before, it was a someday-maybe kind of goal. More of a dream than a goal, I suppose. A fantasy. A “what-if?”. Today, it is a goal with a plan. It is an absolute. I WILL qualify for Boston, and run it when I am 50 years old. This is what the next few years look like:

2020
Build up my fitness to the point where I can run a marathon on demand. Not that I won’t train for them, just that I have the fitness to run 26 miles on any given day.

2021
Place in the top 3 of my age group. Any distance and any event will do. I just want the victory. Probably a small 5K.

2022
Win my age group. Again, any event, any distance. I will also make my first attempt to qualify for Boston at the Chicago 2022 marathon. This is the earliest date to qualify for Boston 2024.

2023
If I don’t qualify in Chicago, I will continue working to qualify for Boston 2024.

2024
At 50 years old, I will run the Boston marathon.

Posted in Run

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