We learn a lot more from the bad days than we do from the good ones.
“Great day for a run, huh?”
“What?” I had just finished a trail run and was walking back to my car. A slim guy in split shorts had begun bouncing circles around me, a real-life Tigger to my post-run Eeyore. “Oh, hi! Yes, it’s beautiful today! How are you?”
“I’m doing GREAT! So GREAT!” He smiled and continued to make awkward small talk as I changed out of my running shoes and wiped the sweat off my face, “Yeah, I’m doing GREAT. Heading out for a GREAT 20-miler in a minute. Woo-hoo! How was your run? You look like you got some GREAT miles in!”
“Oh! My run? Oh, it was fine.” I stammered before adding the word I knew I was supposed to add, “Great! It was a GREAT run. Yeah. Great!”
Technically, that wasn’t a lie. Technically.
I went to bed far too late the night before, and woke up far too early that morning, requiring massive coffee consumption before heading out to the trails. PMS had decided to visit, gifting me with a bloated muffin top not even my favorite shorts could hide. I could only find one clean running sock, and after tearing apart the house looking for its partner, I gave up. Exasperated, I decided to go naked under my shoes that day.
On the trails, I was passed by skinny runner after skinny runner while I pulled my shirt down in a vain attempt to hide my PMS belly. I tripped over a rock – and though I was able to remain upright, the flailing, yelling, and general assholery required to do so made me wonder if I’d have been better off just taking a skinned knee.
If you shook your head and tsk—tsk-tsked me for not wearing socks, I’ll admit you were right. With three miles to go, I felt the familiar twinge of a blister forming on the arch of my foot. In the last mile, the twinge turned to raw pain. I was sunburned, windburned, gross, and crabby.
To top it all off, when I looked down at my GPS at the end of my run, there was a huge discrepancy between how fast I thought I had run in the past 90 minutes and how fast I actually ran.
So when I reached the trailhead and was forced to make small talk with someone annoyingly chipper about heading out for a GREAT 20-miler, I was irked. If he had said the word “great” one more time, I probably would have punched him in the throat.
Yes, there are times when we’re blissfully happy, when we run like a peppy gazelle and feel like we could conquer the world in a pair of neon racing flats. That is a pretty great feeling.
But there are times when it isn’t so.
Sometimes, greatness is just getting a training session done, in spite of bloating and blisters and an uncomfortable absence of sunscreen. Sometimes, the greatest thing is that no one saw you trip over a rock…this time. And sometimes, it’s great because your coach doesn’t berate you for a bad training day, but simply tells you not to drink so much coffee before a run, wash all the socks in the house, and get ready to do better next week.
And you will do better. Because here’s the deal – we learn a lot more from the bad days than we do from the good ones. By pretending that running is so damn great all the time, we ignore all the raw and real moments, the ones spent making mistakes and learning from them. Instead of airbrushing our sunburns into a healthy post-run glow, we should just ‘fess up.
So here’s the truth: That run sucked. It wasn’t the first sucky run I’ve ever had, and it won’t be the last. I’d venture a guess that you’ve had some sucky runs, too. And if you’re willing to admit it, I’d like to offer you a high-five. Perhaps we can hit the trails together sometime and see if we can create some greatness together.
Just let me go wash my socks first.
About The Author:
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke