"Training," I answered her. "You don't practice running, you train."
That word training, it's meaningful to me, even more so than "racing." With "training," I can somehow make a daily excuse to run. Training is how I can feasibly explain to a non-runner why I run 100 kilometres a week. Training is how I've managed to make a run streak that's now almost at 300 days feel almost normal. It's necessary, I say about my running without saying why it's necessary. I'm training.
Races are the shiny, glittery objects of our sport -- we all from time to time, with good reason, succumb to it. We fawn over them, covet them, collect their swag and obsess over them. Over my bed hangs a few select medals I've collected over the years. The other medals -- taken after I've toed the line at marathons, countless 30Ks, halfs and 10Ks, are still stuffed haphazardly in a cardboard box with the Sharpie-scrawled "medals" that the movers hauled into my spare bedroom. It hasn't moved since I placed it on a shelf a year ago. While I keep my medals, I'm not a fan of the bling. I've never quite understood why these massive medals need to be created. I see people asking about medals before they will commit to running a race and I really don't get it, as if it's the swag that's the make-or-break reason why you haul ass for 26.2 miles. Truth is, the more medals I'll earn, the bigger a cardboard box I'll need.
Jeff Adams is a Canadian Paralympian who gave a corporate motivational speech to my company offsite this past summer. Through his speech, he talked about "searching for excellence" in sports and how that relates to the business world. What I connected with the most was when he talked about goal races -- performing on the world's stage, when all cameras and eyes were on him -- he also related to us that he enjoyed the most about the process was the training.
Everyday I train, he told us, six years after he retired from a 20-year career. When you train, you're alone, nothing to drive you but yourself. When you train, you focus on all the parts that need to improve so you can perform at the top of your abilities. But however that goal day unfolds -- race day, Olympics medal day, your first marathon -- it's every day before and every day after that defines you.
While the often-euphoric feeling associated with race day magic is hard to be beat, it's the every other day that nurtures the runner in me. I thought it was a rare thought at first, but the more runners I'm meeting, I'm hearing similar themes.
Committing to training is even more important than following a schedule. Training I associate with the words "commitment," "dedication" and "passion" even as I think of the words "escape," "pain," "hard work" and "disconnecting." Training pushes me beyond my comfort level. It has made me a better runner but at the same time turned me into a runner who loves running as much for the hard work as it is to simply run. In training partners, I'm finding people who feel the same. I no longer feel like the lone guy who just loves to run -- there are many more of us.