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On patience and resilience

I was struck by Seth Godin’s recent post on resilience.

In his brief but poignant essay, Godin writes, “Flexibility, community, and a sense of possibility can go a long way.”

While he wasn’t necessarily writing about ultra runners, if the trail shoe fits, wear it.

It’s precisely those attributes that propel ultra runners to do what was once beyond their imagination. It’s the flexibility to adapt and overcome when things go to shit. It’s the amazing community of runners, volunteers, coaches and others that serve as an indestructible bond. And it’s the sense of possibility — the ability to dream big – that provides the vision for achieving something truly epic.

Resilience can raise us out of bed at zero dark thirty for a midweek training run, even when it’s single-digit temperatures, or raining or otherwise miserable. It can also lift us from those dark moments during an ultra when our minds are telling us to stop.

But without patience, resilience won’t necessarily be as effective.

Runners who consistently exhibit great resilience but little patience can soon burn out. Or push through an injury to the point where it becomes severe enough to force a long-term break.

In my decade of running, there have been times when I’ve had to summon patience in order to overcome an emergency abdominal surgery, plus regular running injuries and setbacks. It is perhaps during these pauses, that our patience results in even more resilience.

If we are not challenged, can we actually grow?

Right now this is timely for me as I am exhibiting as much patience as I can muster with a case of plantar faciitis. I’m doing daily stretches, working with a PT and — after a brief pause in training — keeping the workouts light as the foot heals. I’m emboldened by a recent article written by my coach David Roche, “Why downtime may lead to breakthroughs.”

I’m fortunate that I haven’t had to take significant time off. Credit that to experience and lessons learned. That patience has taught me to chill for now, get the body recovered and dream big for tomorrow. After all, my big goal race for the year is exactly six months from now, the Hennepin Hundred.

On that cool October day, night and morning, I will summon the flexibility to travel 100 miles through a myriad of conditions, embrace the community that makes our sport great and carry the sense of possibility all the way to the finish line.

But first I’ll need to remain patient.


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