Perception is reality, and I dare not get deeper on that topic since it’s an endless vortex, but perception depends on perspective. Everything depends on how you look at it. And how you look at it really defines how you approach it and who you are.
I found myself on a streak this summer, sort of by accident. Sometime in June I noticed I’d run every day for a while, then it was a month, two months, then the old Second Lap record of seventy two days came and went, next thing you know one hundred days was looming, arrived last week, and was surpassed. In the past few weeks alone The Accidental Streak has survived a colonoscopy (yum!), an Adirondack Death March, and Tropical Storm nee Hurricane Irene. Tonight as September starts to unwrap itself, I stand at one hundred and six days since May nineteenth. (And by the way, I applaud club-mate Jim whom I learned was just as crazy as I, having gone out for his run at about the same time as I on Sunday morning as Irene closed in, a “drenched-in-sixty-seconds-and-loving-it” adventure that he enjoyed as much, if not more so, than I, you go…)
So, back to the Accidental Streak. I’m prone to be amused at this. Not proud, just amused. Proud would imply that this is something remarkable. It’s not, other than the fact that it might be a good motivator to keep getting out there, and possibly a remarkable way to do foolish things to my body, though I am pretty well convinced that the occasional days of three to four mile jogs around the neighborhood really count for days off.
There’s one of those perspectives. Three or four miles at a leisurely seven and a half pace is a day off. Most “normal people” would spew a heavy guffaw at such a statement. You do what?
But let’s take the other perspective. You’ve only done how little? At one hundred and six days straight, I’m still two hundred and sixty-nine days short of what I did back in 1980 in the First Lap days. Over a solid year. But hey, I was a teenager, had none of the responsibilities of the real world, you know, easy to dismiss. Or not. Who’s to say there weren’t plenty of things getting in the way back then as well?
And we’ve all read stories of people who’ve run every day for ten, twenty, thirty years or more. I marvel at how they got around the red-eyes to Europe, the medical procedures, the Conferences from Hell, the flu. Perhaps they don’t have lives, though I suspect they do. To them, running every day is just a way of life, like waking, eating, (we hope) showering, and sleeping. I can’t say I’ve reached that. There have been days when slating in even a half-hour jaunt has been a challenge. So in perspective, what’s a hundred or so?
On my recent trip to the Adirondacks, I had the pleasure of linking up on one of my runs up the Lake Road in St. Huberts with a young lady who screamed ultra on multiple dimensions: her education, her profession, her running, even her marriage to yet another über-runner. From my perspective, her tales of past and upcoming hundred-milers, twelve-hour races, ten-hour training runs, and so on simply boggled the mind. To her perspective, it’s just what she does.
I mentioned my Couchsechraga Death March of two days prior, and added with amusement that after the eleven-hour, sixteen-plus-mile, three summit mudfest, I’d hit the road for a quick three to shake out the joints, because I figured that from her perspective, it would be just that - amusement. I didn’t mention the Accidental Streak. In the context of her adventures, it seemed rather silly.
“So you’re streaking?”
Her response surprised me a bit, and it struck me as to the power of perspective. To almost anyone else, the Death March itself would seem absurd. The idea of going for a run following the Death March would be grounds for an in-patient assessment for long-term commitment to a lovely place where flowers grow and the sun shines and nice men in white suits ascertain you’ve taken your meds and are peaceful and sedate and no longer hurting yourself. From her perspective, it was a completely normal thing to do, entirely within the realm of what normal people – to her – did in normal times. I didn’t have to explain myself. She got it.
Adding this to the plethora of times I’ve had to deflect comments about my tiny-bit-larger-than-average fish status in my somewhat smallish local pond, or in other words, yes, I may hit the top three or five in a local five kilometer, but no, I’m really not fast, just lucky that nobody else moderately quick showed up, and won’t you consider the really fast guys out there of whom I too look upon with wonder…. Well, her response got me thinking over the last couple weeks about the power of perspective.
You control your perspective. You decide what’s normal within your scope of reality. You obviously accept physical limits – or perhaps you don’t accept them without first testing to see if they’re real – but aside from that, if you decide that it’s completely normal to run X miles in a month, or X miles at a time, or X times a week, or whatever, whether running-related or not, you decide that. Work – and push – your own limits, not those that the world seems to have put in place and imposed on you. And when you set your version of normal, accept it as just that: normal. Don’t let either the derision, whether serious or in jest, or the lauding, impact your definition of normal. Just strive on your own dimension. Set your own perspective. Enjoy its freedom.