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Marathon of Reasons

by Keith Kanderski

When, like me, you are the casual runner (or, more realistically, the type of person who occasionally participates in run-like activities), there is no better time to get sick than when you are training for a full Marathon. Depending on the type of sickness it is, there can be so many benefits. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “You know, Burn Notice is a lot like The A-Team in many ways.” I may agree with you, but, c’mon, you need to stay focused here. That’s not what I’m talking about…yet.

My shadow getting in shape.
My shadow getting in shape.

The first obvious benefit, if you’re lucky enough to have the flu or food poisoning or something along those lines, is rapid weight loss. When you are pushing or firmly entrenched in obesity, running is often an extension of an exercise program. The main purpose of the exercise program is to get healthier and lose some pounds. If you have already lost those necessary pounds, then I outwardly congratulate you, while I secretly hate you. If you haven’t lost that weight yet, you know how beneficial a couple days of the flu can be. I set a goal for myself to lose five pounds per month. The flu can often accomplish that in just a few days, and you don’t feel bad about it because it’s not like you are purposefully starving yourself.

In my first piece, I wrote about struggling with these excuses for running and trying to buckle down and “just do it” (which I believe is a famous quotation attributed to Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, but I may be wrong – my fact checker is currently broken). Again, depending on the sickness, you may have a legitimate reason to skip some of the running or cross-training exercising. If you are a serious runner like Meb or Forrest Gump, there probably are not many illnesses that will keep you down. If you are not a serious runner, there probably are not many illnesses that will prevent you from taking a much needed day of rest. You know, you don’t want to get all the other runners sick. Running when you can’t breathe is not going to inspire the amateur to keep on going. And, I sure as hell am not going to run around with a port-a-potty strapped to my back.

An excuse, as defined by dictionary.com is “a plea offered in extenuation of a fault or for release from an obligation, promise, etc.” or “a pretext or subterfuge.” Man. That doesn’t sound good at all. Subterfuge? That sounds like a terrorist organization…or maybe a death metal band. Reason, as defined by that same website, is “a statement presented in justification or explanation of a belief or action” or “to form conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises.” Yeah. That sounds much better.

So, instead of feeling like an excuse-making, pathetic blob, I decided to look into the reasons why my training was going a little south. You know, a little justification. I started examining some of my weaknesses in the training and why it may be occurring. Honestly, there are valid reasons why my training may not be going as perfectly as I had hoped.

I was talking with my sister-in-law (she of 3:15 marathon finishing time) around St. Patrick’s Day. It may have been my only conversation around that time of year not to somehow include Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, and the Leprechaun movie franchise. We were at Crop Bistro for a party. Crop Bistro is a local Cleveland restaurant near the famed West Side Market. We were talking about training for our respective marathons (Boston for her, Cleveland for me). I was talking about my ups and downs, and she said something that ended up inspiring me, even though it took a few weeks for it to settle into my brain. Being a runner is a lifestyle choice. You need to commit to it. It needs to be a top priority. If you cannot make the time and do the proper training, then you will not be successful at it. Aside from the training, you also have to eat a certain way. I can’t remember the exact words, but I think this was the basic idea behind our conversation. I was thinking about the conversation a couple of weeks later, and everything suddenly clicked with me, and five words changed my mental approach:

I am not a runner.

I looked at the missed exercises, and I realized that many of them were missed for legitimate reasons. They may not seem legitimate to the avid runner, but they are legitimate in the hierarchy of my priorities:

  1. Husband/Father/Son/Friend
  2. Writer
  3. Healthy Me
  4. Cubicle Monkey
  5. Interests (Runner, Musician, watcher of The A-Team)
If this doesn't inspire you to run, nothing will.
If this doesn’t inspire you to run, nothing will.

I was having a conversation on Facebook with Ryan LaRosa (don’t forget to read his piece on Japan), he mentioned getting behind on his running these past 18 months since his child was born, but, to me, that’s not an excuse; it’s a reason. If I have to choose between volunteering at my sons’ school event or getting in my 5-mile run, I’m going to choose the school event. If I have to choose between a 3-mile run and seeing my wife after she worked the past couple nights, I’m going to choose seeing my wife. To me, these are valid reasons.

I’m not 100% dedicated to running, and that’s okay. I enjoy doing it. It’s a hobby. I actually think it’s fun. But, if I don’t get around to running, it doesn’t make me upset. If, however, many weeks have passed and I haven’t worked on writing my book, I can feel my attitude get sour. So, if my choice is between staying up late on a Saturday night because I have an idea for the book or waking up early on Sunday to get in my long run, I’m going to stay up late on Saturday night and hope for the best on Sunday.

So, how will all this translate on May 17th? We’ll soon find out.

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