It is, quite frankly, science. The Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Law of Entropy. All things are in a constant state of breakdown. And by all things I mean me. And by me I mean my training. And by my training I mean my body. And my emotional soundness. And my mental fortitude.
Really, the only thing that’s flourishing right now is my appetite. That, my friends, defies the confines of scientific law and quantum mechanics.
My treadmill training runs, which began so promisingly with A Few Good Men and The Bourne Identity, have since deteriorated to America Ninja Warrior and, I am not proud to admit, Tom and Jerry.
Let it be noted firstly that it was 4:30 in the morning, and complex dialogue didn’t strike me as particularly appealing or necessary.
Let it be noted secondly that I believe Tom Cat is misunderstood; he’s really not such a bad guy. In fact, five miles into the whole thing, I found myself rooting for him.
And let’s take a moment to discuss Tom, who, like my appetite, is one of the few things that operates in complete noncompliance to the Law of Entropy. According to Wikipedia (i.e., the extent of my research on the topic), Tom was originally “quadrupedal and had normal cat intelligence. However, over the years (since the episode “Dog Trouble”), he has become almost completely bipedal and has human intelligence.”
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Specifically, what exactly happened in that episode “Dog Trouble”?
In addition to a startling physiological evolution, Tom also rifled through a whole harem of love interests, including but not limited to “Toodles Galore, a non-speaking recurring cat; an unnamed non-speaking brown cat who appeared in ‘Muscle Beach Tom’; and an unnamed white cat who appeared in ‘Blue Cat Blues,’ similar to the cat seen in ‘Muscle Beach Tom,’ except with a personality like Toodles.”
Who in the name of Hanna Barbera keeps track of these things? And what, exactly, are Toodles’s most prominent and identifiable personality traits other than “recurring” and “non-speaking”?
You can see what a fragile mental state I’m in.
Thus, it was with great joy that I ran into Barb this past Sunday as we made our pre-run pilgrimages to the Visitor’s Center bathroom in Forest Park. I had a twenty-mile long run. Barb was there with the training team.
“Barb! Can I join you guys?” I asked (about the run, not the bathroom). I didn’t know how far they were running or how fast they were going to run. Those details were dwarfed by one wonderful, looming reality: I didn’t have to run by myself. I could run with other people, even if it were for only a few miles.
As it turned out, the team was there to crank out a ninety-minute progression run. I started with Andy’s group and then, when he started picking up the pace, bounced back to Barb’s squadron.
Before I knew it, eleven miles were in the books. I was left with only nine to negotiate on my own. Piece o’ cake.
“Thanks for letting me join you!” I said before peeling away. “It’s so much better running with people.”
“We’re just people, Amy,” Barb replied in the full glory of her philosophical wisdom. “People who need people.”
“And that people is you, Barb,” I replied.
Runners, of all people, are people who need people. Every year—every run—I realize more and more just how vital it is to be outfitted with a posse of like-minded, equally driven running buddies. Why? Because it’s hard to wake up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. It’s hard to run a track workout after a long day at work. It’s hard to push yourself to run fast enough on fast days or to exercise the self-control needed to run slow enough on slow days. It’s hard to log mile after mile for days and weeks on end. No matter how tough you are, no matter how much you love running, the unremitting demands of training will eventually take a toll on you.
Did you know that will power isn’t a personality trait, but an energy that is expended as we use it? Isn’t that crazy? Think about that. Will power isn’t an abstract concept: it is a measurable form of energy. Scientists call the expenditure of will power “ego depletion.” (Not the bad kind of ego. The psychological definition of ego.) It’s why it’s harder to refuse junk food at night than it is at the beginning of the day, or why household chores loom larger after a stressful day of work. No matter how abundant our stores of will power, they are not infinite. Sooner or later, they will run low. And having running buddies is like having backup will power generators.
That’s why, last Tuesday, I ran my tempo run with Jake. It’s why, this morning, I needed a running date with Lisa to make sure I didn’t hit snooze on my 4:30 alarm. It’s why, every Friday, Chris and Megan and I meet up with the promise of a post-run breakfast. And it’s why, on Sunday, I was so excited to see Barb before a twenty-mile long run that otherwise would have been run solo.
Because at the end of the day, we’re just people. People who need people.
Specifically, people who run.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.