What I hate about endurance events are the long training days. This weekend, I ran 12 miles taking 3 hours out of my Saturday morning (when you include commute, warm-up, and cool-down time). But, the training day is essential because it is a microcosm of the actual event without the crowds, excessive adrenaline, and porta-potties. Instead , I face silence, sleep deprivation, and large bushes while focusing on technique and learning to endure pain.
The first hour is never bad. I feel strong and natural running along mix asphalt and dirt trail. Without thinking, I easily slip into a rhythm and allow my mind to wander through this past weeks events, goals for the futures, and challenges in life. It is a perfect opportunity to consider meaning, motivation, and purpose.
But somewhere in the middle of my run, fatigues sets in. My shoulders droop and I begin to hunch. I notice my focus is not on the road ahead, but about five yards in front of me. My gait changes and I struggle with an inefficient form.
In this moment (if I’m lucky), I snap myself out of the fatigue filled funk and remember perfection in the form of a 5′ 7″ man.
During a similar long training day this summer, I was on my tri-bike drafting friends around our local island when we passed a runner paced by two riders. Distracted, I popped up my head, fell out of the draft, and stared at the runner. He was fast (I don’t know how fast, but it’s the kind of fast you just know when you see it), but not struggling with speed. And he wasn’t sprinting, just running.
On our next pass around the island, we slowed and ogled. He was still there looking fast and smooth with long purposeful strides. There was a ease to his gait and perfection to his form. After we passed, we learned we were watching Meb Keflezighi — marathon Olympic Silver Medalist and winner of the New York and Boston marathons.
It’s been months since I saw Meb run, but the image of perfection still burns in my mind. Whenever I run, I conjure up the image of Meb. When my mind wanders and my form collapses, I see Meb running. When my shoulder droop and my gait changes, I remember the picture of perfection and straighten up. I’m pretty certain that I’ll never run like Meb, but that doesn’t keep me from attempting to replicate his form because when you see perfection, you long to imitate it.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)