On Running and Mindset

March 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. The whole premise of this blog became popularized in part through this smash hit of a book, but only after I started this blog did I realize this*.

The book has been praised, criticized, and reviewed to death, so I’ll let Ed Ayres do most of the reviewing for me. In summary – read the book if you’re looking for something that is (1) entertaining, (2) motivating if you can look past the scientific and historical fudges, and (3) has some interesting science (that you’ll probably want to to read more about somewhere else afterwards).


I had been fighting a cold since Thursday and it finally hit me like a cold hard mistress Monday morning. Despite feeling like total crap, saying mushed up half sentences on conference calls, and wondering at whether I could maybe just sleep in the office that night, I went to bed every night hoping that I would feel better enough to run to work the next day.

This was a totally uncharacteristic thought for me to have, it was confusing and I wondered at whether it was the delirium getting to me..

The striking thing about the characters in Born to Run is their insistence on enjoying a thing that the rest of us normal humans would consider insane. Run 100 miles in a row? Yeah okay, put you in the weirdo category of adrenaline junkie people that do 24 hour Red Bull extreme marathons.

The distinction is that these runners seemed to be going the distance for the sheer joy of it. Pushing the limits because it was fun, or in some cases by accident (“One day, I ran to work because running is fun, and then at lunch I ran around some more, and then I ran home..”), not because they wanted to win or be the best, not for recognition or for their health…

It is on one hand, the exact opposite of how most people I know (myself included) approach running, and on the other, the exact approach that I take when it comes to biking.

I ran because I don’t have enough time to go on bike rides and I wanted to make sure my heart would be not explode at 50. I ran because I didn’t want to be the only kid on the block who couldn’t do a 5k. I ran because I wanted a respectable distance to time ratio. I ran because I wanted to beat myself on how fast I could run. It made running a chore to be done. A necessary evil, or at best a necessary neutral activity.

I bike because I want to go places. I bike so I can see all the things along the way – stop and start, revel and wander. I bike because I love to bomb down hills with my tongue sticking out, eyes half closed. I bike to feel alive. When I talk about my experiences biking, people look at me as if I’m a crazy person, the same way I look at long distance runners.

So what the hell is the difference? Perhaps I had constructed the same mindset around running that everyone else does about biking …! Maybe I hated running because I’ve been thinking about it the wrong way my whole life….! So on Friday I ran home. On Saturday, I ran to my meeting at the coffee shop, and then I ran to the office…I didn’t think about speed, I didn’t buckle down in my mind, “okayyy here we go, let’s get it over with” like I usually do, I just looked around, jumped up and down at the songs I liked, stuck my tongue out to catch the falling snow.. and in 12 hours I had run 8.5 miles around town when I hadn’t run in more than 2 months (and then for just 3 miles.)

It’s not a revolutionary idea that an activity will be more awesome if you don’t think it’s going to suck, but there it is, cognitive dissonance in mindset at its best.

(I’m now on a pursuit for more on mindset and in a wormhole of books, articles, and TED talks – leave a comment if you have a recommendation related to the topic!)


* It went down like this – I was dating someone who was running a 5k over Thanksgiving and I was meeting the parents that same Thanksgiving. I hated running (much more of a cyclist and hiker at the time), but didn’t want to be the girlfriend that couldn’t run a 5k. I’d been seeing people with Vibrams all around and wondered what all the hullabaloo was about, so I read all about barefoot running, the running man evolution theory, and yes, chasing down antelope for food. Plus the brown ones made me feel like a bear cub in the woods and that seemed awesome.
She ended up deciding not to do the 5k and we eventually broke up, and I’ve been running and blogging ever since. Life is random sometimes.

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