Chad and Brenda have done a LOT of running in their lives. Brenda has completed 15 marathons and two 50kms. Chad has done 15 marathons and one 50km. The half-marathons and 10kms they have completed are too numerous to mention. Earlier this season, Chad was the ‘pace bunny’ for a group at the Calgary Marathon and he brought them in within one second of their target time. That’s impressive! During that same race, Brenda tackled her second 50km road race and finished in a time that would be the envy of many!
A few years ago, before my hiatus (I don’t want to say ‘when I was running’ because I know I’ll be back), we would often see Chad and Brenda at races. We followed each other’s progress when any one of us was doing an out of town race. We loved to cheer them on and they returned the favour. There are many things that I admire and love about this couple. I love how they support each other in whatever challenge one of them sets for themselves. I love how they are always interested in including others in their adventures. I love how they are always more interested in hearing about the success of others than mentioning their latest victories. They just seem to speak my language and I find it really easy to be with them and to talk to them about my passion of running and about life in general. Chad often jokes that the taper is his best skill. In running, ‘tapering’ refers to the one to three-week period immediately prior to a race when a runner needs to back off mileage in order to let the body heal and prepare for the demands of the race. I used to hate tapering because it made me feel like I wasn’t preparing. Chad on the other hand sometimes took it to the extreme when he would joke that he had tapered for months before a race. A young body might get away with this, especially in shorter distances, but long distances and age require that the taper be kept to about a week. In Chad’s case, this was always just code for, ‘I might not have trained enough!’
Tapering is just one of the terms in the language of runners. Another running term that came to my mind this week was the idea of ‘junk miles’. In life, junk refers to things we don’t want and in fact likely should or could get rid of. Following that school of thought, at first glance you might think that junk miles are bad. However, there are some very conflicting opinions about junk miles.
One school of thought is that every workout needs to have a specific purpose. A specific purpose might be something like hill work to build strength, intervals to increase speed, distance to improve stamina. If your workout doesn’t fall into one of these categories, then you are running junk miles. In other words, you are doing running that will be of no benefit to you in a race. People who subscribe to this theory would argue that junk miles need to be eliminated from their workouts.
The other camp would argue that all miles are good miles and that the more miles you put on during a week, the better your performance will be on race day.
It happens that there is truth to both ideas and that it might be unfair to pick sides here. In running and in life.
If you think of one key relationship you have in your life right now, and think of the time you spend with that person, I’ll bet you put on some junk miles and some quality miles with them. I know I do. Some of the time spent together is simply time. This might include time spent driving quietly in a car, watching TV and reading the morning paper. In other words, every single interaction is not focused and purposeful. Other times, your time together is very purposeful. You might be on a special date night, or engaged in a conversation that is important or working together on a project.
I’ve always felt that there are life lessons to be gathered from running and I believe that this is the case here. In important relationships, if all your ‘miles’ spent together are junk miles, this can lead to boredom with each other. On the other hand, if every single interaction is focused and efficient, this can lead to exhaustion and dread; there is no space to just ‘be’. There may be times when some of your junk miles can easily be replaced with quality miles and there might be times when junk miles are exactly what is needed.
There is also a third, less spoken about possibility; it may just be that there is an opportunity for quality miles within junk miles. When I think of many of my conversations with Chad and Brenda, we often just chat about life, recent races and adventures. At first glance, these could appear to be ‘junk mile’ conversations. They aren’t intense and they aren’t designed to solve any world issues. However, sprinkled inside these conversations are always comments of encouragement and interest. Almost always one of them says something that reminds me to keep seeking adventures and to push myself. I always leave them feeling better about myself than when we start. In my book, these are definitely ‘quality mile’ conversations.
Over this next week, notice what kind of miles you are typically logging with people in your life. Just noticing this is often enough to make the little tweaks necessary to be able to perform like Chad and Brenda; you want to be able go the distance AND know that your effort will get you close to a perfect time!
P.S. Just this week, Chad mentioned that Brenda is considering a 100km race. I’ll keep you posted…..
Book a coaching session with Elizabeth to create a ‘running’ program for your life that brings you exactly the impressive results you want! Coaching is available for individuals and for groups.