Runners World Articles: Archives
Growing through a Phase
Our running life isn't static, a single note played over and over.
It is growth and movement, an evolution from our "birth" as runners
to the fullest development of our potential; a melody full of lulls
and surges, silences and crescendos. After those first labored steps,
every runner goes through stages, enduring a few "growing pains"
along the way. But if you're open to each of these phases, you can
continue to benefit from the positive elements of each one as you
move on to more rewarding running experiences.
The Beginner. Perched on the edge of a new, vigorous
life, the beginning runner is primarily a sedentary person. He or
she is impatient with the slow process of weight loss and the almost
imperceptible increase of running pace. The novice wants results,
now! Filled with exuberance, beginners often push too hare, get
injured or tired, and quit, only to restart a dozen times.
Beginners thrive on joining running groups. Though they sometimes
struggle to "just get out there," novices eventually learn to enjoy
the relaxed feeling running brings. When they start to sense a clearer,
more focused mental state on their running days, they're on the
verge on entering the next phase.
The Jogger. Though the jogger may sometimes lack
the motivation to start a run, he feels secure with the habit of
running. While most beginners need a specific benefit from each
run, the jogger finds satisfaction in the act itself and seldom
describes runs as "boring."
Joggers have begun to feel like part of the running community and
may enjoy identification with a particular running event. They rarely
have a training plan and usually abandon special schedules because
of the conflicts of work and home life.
As joggers enter the next phase, some become competitive and train
hard for faster times or challenging events. Others bypass competitive
urges and discover the transcendental quality of the "Runner" phase.
The Competitor/The Athlete. There's a competitive
streak, often hidden, in all of us. Controlled and directed, it
can motivate us, stimulating strengths that would otherwise stay
submerged. The negative compulsion of the competitor is an obsessive
pursuit of personal records or age-group awards.
If the competitor can break free from this preoccupation with ego
boosts, he'll strive to bring out his best on any given day. This
marks entry into the world of the athlete, who pushes through tiredness
and discomfort, developing the capacity to deal with adversities
in races and in other areas of life.
As a competitor, you learn how to choose events and develop racing
techniques. Once you mature into an athlete, however, you appreciate
your ability to rise to the challenge and use current personal resources
to maximize potential on that day.
Competitors know exactly where they rank in the pecking order-and
yearn for the next level. The athlete finds success in every running
The Runner. It is possible to have it all. This
phase balances the elements of fitness, commitment, competition
and mental invigoration with the demands of career and family. Runners
have a life apart from running, yet appreciate how running enhances
each area of their lives.
Intuitively, the runner combines strength, speed, form and endurance
with motivation and willpower. The running experience itself confers
so much satisfaction that each run becomes a natural expression
of who the runner is and what he stand for. The runner appreciates
the chemistry of a group but loves the transcendental quality of
a solitary run.
As a runner, you can relive the enjoyment of each stage-the beginner's
excitement and the jogger's glow of fitness; moments of the competitor's
ambition, balanced by the athlete's quest for personal excellence.
And for the runner, it's possible, on parts of every run, to transcend
the physical experience, letting your mind soar into creative and
World, April 1998, p. 36
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