This is a typical date night with my husband. Sitting at the top of a hill after running it over and over and over again.
I hate hills.
My husband, however, who I am sure is a masochist, loves to run hills.
I love running intervals on the track – running at full speed down a straightaway.
My husband, however, not so much.
We’re both committed to running hills and intervals together for the next few weeks, maybe months. This past week, we ran up a rather large hill in our hood that really requires some mental toughness. It’s a long climb.
The first one always feels great. You think to yourself, Wow, that wasn’t so bad. I can’t believe that I actually made it up the hill. I can do this.
But by the time I begin my descent for the third time, with my ass on fire, I tell myself I can’t do it. I want to pat myself on the back and call it a day. And as I am looking up what seems to be a mountain now, I just want to lie down and take a nap. My husband urges with the best of intentions, “Just one foot at a time.” And so I try. My legs start to feel like they are moving through water no matter how fast I pump my arms. I feel every rock, stone, and pebble in my way. I have to focus on not losing my balance in ground holes because my legs are barely carrying the weight of my body. And when I reach the top, I don’t feel triumph or victory, I feel dread that I have to still use my legs to go back down and then try to do it all over again.
Intervals are different. They aren’t any less taxing than hills. My legs feel the same burn. I am still sucking wind after about the third or fourth one. I still feel like my legs are moving through water by the end. But as I cross the line at the end of the straightaway and begin to slow down as I get to the curve, I don’t feel the same dread. I walk the curve to the next straightaway with ease, thinking I can do a million of these intervals. My legs tell me otherwise but my mind is convinced.
My husband explains his love of hills this way:
“I am reliant on the hill for feedback. I can focus on the varied terrain and trick my mind into thinking that I don’t have to push myself because the hill is pushing me. With intervals, it’s all dependent on me. My output is completely related to how much effort I put in. I can’t use anything as a mind trick, like a hill.”
My Jedi mind tricks on myself fail at the bottom of any hill. Now the hill probably has my legs turning over less and my strides are shorter. Recovery from hill running is faster. I never feel sore after hills.
But it is a grind. There are so many other variables that affect the climb that I can’t control – the uneven ground, the rocks in my way and the incline itself.
And I have been told I am a bit of a control freak so after hearing Ever-Patient’s explanation, I am not surprised why I love the track. I control my own fate on the track. There are no other variables but me. It’s all on me.
But I won’t stop running hills. The psychological challenge of letting go of control is greater than the physical challenge. Letting go of certainty and seeing the finish line. I will keep my head focused in front of me, adapting to changing terrain. I will grind it out trusting that the view at the top will be worth it.
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing here and now.