The Fine Line Between Reason and Excuse


As I mentioned in my first post, the 2009 Boston Marathon was the culmination of my long road back to fitness.  I ran it 4:09, running within a few seconds of 9:30 miles the whole way thanks to the help of a very consistent teammate from the Run For Research team.  Some people would be ecstatic with this time, some would rather die than post it in public.  Me?  I wasn’t disappointed with the time I ran that day given my fitness on that day, but with my failure to get to that day in the shape I know I could have been based on how my training went.  I had run the New Bedford half Marathon roughly a month and half before the marathon in 1:43:51 and had been consistently in the low to mid 8’s for all my long runs for a while so up until the wheels fell off with about a month to go, a sub-4 marathon debut seemed like a strong possibility, which brings me to the subject of this post: at what point do we give in easy excuses, and at what point do we fight through them?

Leading up to New Bedford, I came down with a severe case of peroneal tendonitis (check it out here).  Basically, it felt like the outside of my right foot was broken and every step was more painful than the last.  Good excuse for training to fall off right?  Well sure, unless you have access to an elliptical trainer, or bike, or other similarly low-impact XT equipment.  Heck, I didn’t try them to see if they would hurt to do.  Instead, I took a week off, with my first run back from injury being the half-marathon.  Next, there was the ski trip to Utah with my wife’s family.  Again, a tough time to get training in, but possible if willing to make some sacrifices, like time on the slope and time doing…nothing.  Finally, I returned from the ski trip to learn I had been laid off from my job at my law firm, not exactly welcome news given the “state of the economy” and the fact that “no one in the legal world is hiring.”  Now it just so happens this happened on the Friday before the scheduled 21 mile run that most of the charity teams do starting from the actual start line of the race.  As you can imagine, my heart was not exactly in the right place to wake up at whatever ung-dly hour I would have needed to in order to get to the busses to get to Hopkinton, and I skipped the run.  In fact, I skipped a lot of runs over the next two weeks in a combination of moroseness and self-delusional “tapering.”

For a long time I’ve chalked up my 4:09 to a confluence of events conspiring against me to prevent me from reaching my goal.  I mean, if you phrase it as “painful injury, lack of training opportunities, and severe anxiety over my professional and financial future,” I look downright heroic for even finding the willpower to get to the starting line (ok, maybe not downright heroic, but you get the idea).  I’ve come to realize though that I made my own choices about how to handle each potential setback.  I relied on them as excuses and gave into them instead of resolving to not let  erase months of hard training through the cold Boston winter.

Ironically, admitting all this to myself has been empowering, as I know that I control my own destiny, at least when it comes to my running.  I know that I can write off skipping a morning workout because of a late night the night before and justify it to myself as not wanting to be tired at work.  Or, I can realize what I’m doing and acknowledge that I will be just fine at work if I wake up early for a run and, if I choose not to then my fitness will suffer the consequences.  I can choose to do nothing when injured in the name of healing up, or I can spend the time I need to in physical therapy and doing whatever I can to cross-train.  The choices are there, but unless I am I able to admit to myself that my self-described “reason for not running” is more of an “excuse to be lazy,” more often than not I’ll be tempted to make the wrong one.

You can bet that in seeking to reach my goals for this coming Spring and Summer I am going to work to eliminate “excuse” from my vocabulary and fulfill my potential regardless of any supposed “setbacks” I may encounter.

Happy trails to you.

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One Response to “The Fine Line Between Reason and Excuse”

  1. jumbolaw Says:

    Great point about being self-aware about injuries. An injury can be a reason not to run, but not an excuse to lose fitness.

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