Originally written: June 13 2014, edited January 2017
“Find what you love and let it kill you.” — Charles Bukowski.
It’s a ‘what’, not a ‘who’ and running does this easily. The magic from the fluidity of running –the rhythmic pounding on the pavement, the bounce in your stride –it becomes an endless chase when the track becomes a metaphor for futility. I often struggle because I find myself asking: What is ever good enough for me? Where exactly am I going with this? What is this magic permutation of numbers on my watch that will bring me happiness?
First off, it’s easy to wish that I were less tired -brimming with hopeful vigour, enthusiasm for my future, and the prospect of untapped potential. I have been tired for as long as I can recall, but exhaustion is a feeble excuse for poor performance. My coach used to tell me, (bright-eyed and naïve a 14 year old I was): “If you don’t train for it, someone else will”. So I spent year after year telling myself, “If you can find an excuse for today, you find an excuse for race day. You will find an excuse for your lack of speed. You will justify the mediocrity.” You will end up a could-have-been.
So there it was. That little voice at the back of my head telling me I chose this and will continue to choose it. In the midst of all my doubts (and times where I tell myself that it’s not going to be worth it), I remind myself there must be a reason for why I chose it. We sometimes forget why we train in the first place. Passion is measured by results. We measure dedication by attendance, and measure determination by the extent of pain etched on one’s face. Everything is a calculated measurement but these numbers mean nothing. The universe is so incredibly indifferent to them. They mean nothing to the vast cosmos.
Find what you love, and let it kill you – because in getting killed (utterly wrecked by the workout I might add), you also develop a startling awareness of your own mortality. Awareness that you are alive and subject to a multitude of possibilities. Let it kill you, but not consume you -and the latter was exactly what I did. In the quest for feeling alive, I conflated my desire for pain in itself with pain as a means to an end, with the latter consuming me. What I really wanted out of the sport is to chase the high -a profound sense of satisfaction derived from having gone through hell. Anything to make me feel like the pain coursing through my body really does mean I am alive.
“Dolor hic tibi proderit olim.” Someday this pain will be useful to you. Perhaps it might, and I will go on to be faster and stronger. Unfortunately, nothing is ceaselessly useful and such is the law of diminishing returns. The same holds for pain. Surely there are instances of unnecessary, excessive pain that destabilizes our faith in a noble, metaphysical purpose of suffering. However, I just need to remember that in that very moment, I am nothing but alive and that’s all that matters. That’s all we have to hold on to and it is enough.