Article by: Michael SelmanReproduced with permission of the author
Last Sunday, it was 18. Today it was 10 miles that felt effortless, but I would hardly call it an EASY 10. Even though it was easily done, nothing is easy. Not the first mile. Not the last mile. Nothing in between.
For 17 years, I've been running. Sometimes, it has been very consistent, and cyclically, it has been sporadic, or even nonexistent. At times, life got too busy. At times, life got too hard. At times, the body rebelled. But since April 16th, 1982, in one way or another, I have been a runner.
The first mile, way back when, was very difficult. One mile. It was all I could do. That distance, back then, involved total effort. I remember coming back in the house, and laying on the floor, almost unable to move. My body felt like one big heart, pounding away, almost uncontrollably. Whatever my maximum heart rate was, I know that I was there that day.
The next day, I didn't run. I hurt too much. My legs hurt. My back hurt. I didn't think what I had done the day before was good for me. I didn't think running was good for me. Sometimes you have to avoid the hurt to take care of yourself. Nothing wrong with that. So I didn't run that second day.
For the next three months, I ran on and off, a mile here, two miles there. By June, I could still only run 3 miles before I had to stop and walk. Nothing was easy. I was only 26 years old. I worked a physical job. I was thin. It shouldn't have been that hard.
The end of June, I entered my first 10K. Maybe it should have been a 5K, but that was not the distance of choice back then. I remember hitting the three mile point at 27 something, and then I had to walk. The next three miles were hard. Walk some, jog some, walk some more. Blisters on my feet that I would feel for the next few days. Aching muscles that would cause me to walk funny for the next few days. After the race, I didn't run for the next few days. But I did run again. It just didn't come easy.
The next month, I finally ran my first 10K without stopping to walk. Did it in under 50 minutes too. Not bad. I was improving. I was building endurance. I was gaining speed. By the end of 1982, I was running 10K in under 44 minutes, and 5K in under 21. But none of it came easy.
Over the years, running ebbed and flowed. I got faster, my long runs and races got longer, but it was not easy. Sometimes, I pushed too much, and as a result, I got slower, my runs got shorter, and I took time off from running.
A couple of years ago, I got hurt...bad. Running is a lot like life. There are days you are on top of the world, and there are days you can't even crawl out of bed. The most satisfying good times are the ones you work the hardest to accomplish, whether it is running or anything else. There is always a price to pay.
This morning, I did 10 miles. The miles flew by. Nothing hurt. All was well with the world. At first glance, I would say it was an effortless, easy 10 miles. But that could not be further from the truth. Behind today's 10 miles were years of dedication. Behind today's 10 miles were periods of frustration, and hurt when nothing seemed possible. Behind today's 10 miles were several months of awaking at 4:45 AM, and running in the dark, so I could be ready for this run today. Behind today's 10 miles were 17 years of being a runner, and 26 years of everything else before that. Behind today's 10 miles was a lifetime of me. Believe me, THAT is not easy. Nothing is.
But the harder something is, the more rewarding are the results. Anything that is too easy does not hold our interest for long. It's the extra effort that measures our success. It's doing whatever it takes, and doing what you believe in, that makes one happy. There is always tremendously hard work that makes our most valiant efforts "easy." Today's run was not easy. Life isn't easy. Nothing is easy. But today, I know that, in all things, I have done the best I know how. The rewards of that are endless.
Michael Selman Roads Scholar Atlanta Georgia USAMichael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.