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Are runners obsessed ?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Thursday, May 24, 2012
in Road Races

As a runner/triathlete I have a lot of time to think during my long training sessions. I have been thinking a lot lately about the drive most dedicated athletes have for training. Many runners, regardless of ability, are following some type of training plan. This training plan becomes a voice in our heads that refuses to let us relax. You are constantly thinking about the next few workouts and how you plan on including them into your life. There is never an option to skip a workout...typically that is not even discussed. If you are sick or having a real bad day you may shorten a workout but missing one is only reserved for 1-2 times a year life events that prevent you from working out. You will wake up at 3 AM to get a workout in before an early morning flight. You will workout in rain/snow/wind/heat/cold etc. Weather is not an issue. Many times I have seen noticeably sick athletes show up for a race. It begs the question...Why?

I am currently competing in the Good Times 5k Series which is held on 10 consecutive Tuesday nights. In this series points are cumulative for overall prizes at the end of the 10 weeks. This means that if you miss a week you are probably out of the running. What does this make people do? People show up sick, tired, cancel appointments, etc. There have been many examples of people competing the day after running the Boston Marathon or other Marathon events. Your VTR host even ran 2 days after doing the Bassman Half Ironman. Are we not reasonable people? Do we have no "common sense" filter in regards to running? What drives us to keep going at this frenetic rate? Are we obsessed? If we are obsessed what are we obsessed with? Running a certain amount of times a week? Running a certain mileage number no matter what?

My opinion is most people who train seriously as a runner or triathlete are very committed people. This means once we lock onto something we don't stop until we've completed it, no matter what. The drive to continue is very strong and is not easily deterred. This is a great asset to have when you have miles to go in a marathon and you feel terrible.  It helps you finish the race. Unfortunately, most of us can't shut this off in day-to-day life. It is a part of us. That is why we will run a 5k on Tuesday night when we ran a marathon the day before.  At a later date we may agree what we did wasn't the smartest thing to do but soon enough we are in a similar situation, and we do the same thing over again. It is part of us...we can't stop. (oh...I think I just answered my question...I  guess we are obsessed.)

The photo below is me getting an IV after refusing to quit and successfully completing the Timberman Half Ironman in 2009...Nothing wrong with hitting the medical tent after an event, right?

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Why can't you be a normal person?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Thursday, May 10, 2012
in Training

If you have trained for a big event at some point someone has asked "Why do you do this?" Don't you wish you were a normal person that didn't have to train everyday? Why do you inflict self-induced torture upon your body by swimming in 60 degree water, running in cold/snow/rain, cycling in 90 degree heat...etc. I have asked myself this question many times. Many times I have asked myself this question while I was in the middle of a "self inflicted torture" session.

In 2001 I had completed a little over 100 races in my career (see Race History) and reached a point where I was sick of all the early morning workouts and long training sessions. All I wanted to do was to be a "normal" person. I had been training for something my entire life and just wanted to eliminate the pressure and daily grind of training and racing. I dreamed that "normal" people live pressure free lives and do not have all of the self-induced pressures to continuously train for events. Finally I said, "That's it. I quit. I am now retired." I stopped working out and started living my life as a normal person. Over the course of the next few months my weight climbed from my training weight of 175 to a high of 199. I had a chocolate chip muffin and a regular coffee every morning on the way to work and couldn't care less about what races were going on next weekend.

As the months progressed I would occasionally take in the smell and freshness of a beautiful morning and remember how awesome it was to run in the early spring. A couple of times I drove by a lake or saw a group of cyclists and thought about how fun training and racing for a triathlon can be. As the summer came and went these thoughts started to become more frequent. As the 2001 fall racing season began I really started to miss training and racing. I finally figured out that being a normal person wasn't all that great. I really missed the excitement and challenge of competing in triathlons/road races which was a big part of my "normal" life. I missed the way my body felt when I was in great shape. I missed everything about my old life. I found out that being "normal" is different for everyone.

In November I decided to get back into racing. I was 25 pounds over weight and hadn't worked out in 10 months. After a few weeks of running, on Thanksgiving Day 2001, I entered the Turkey Trot at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport Massachusetts. This is a 5k race on hard pack trails in the park. This race turned into a real eye opener as I really struggled during the race and almost had to walk at the end. I completed the race in 24:06. This was by far the slowest 5k race I have ever run and to this day is the slowest recorded 5k time by your VTR host. I worked hard over the winter and ended up competing in 24 events in 2002. I would like to say my form came back quickly but it didn't. I truly did not regain my form for several years. Now when I am extremely sore after a tough race and someone asks me if I wished I was a normal person and didn't have to put myself through all of the effort and pain to compete my answer is simple....What do you mean?..I am a normal person.

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