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When We Struggle

I think probably one of the most consistent factors in the experience of any runner, in fact of any biker, swimmer, or athlete of any sort, is the struggle. It's inevitable, a rite of passage, a fact of life - and you could probably make the case that an athlete who never struggles probably isn't doing something right.

[Quick aside - it took me a long time to accept the moniker of "runner," but eventually it becomes a little absurd for someone who runs more days than they don't run to keep claiming they aren't a runner. But I still don't consider myself an athlete; I use the term here loosely.]

The past couple of weeks I have been struggling more than usual. I hit a perfect storm at the beginning of July: a family vacation (with all the overeating, overexerting, and under-sleeping that goes along with it), the first real heat of the Summer, and the steady strain of increased training miles. What's more, I have been plagued lately by blisters, nagging hip pain, and the diagnosis of a misaligned pelvis. As a result, I ran headlong into a slump of challenging runs and disappointing paces. I'm still working to get myself out of that slump, both physically and mentally. It's not easy with continued warm weather and a significant heatwave forecasted for this week. So I'm trying to work on giving myself a little grace, while also strengthening my resolve to learn from this experience.

No one really enjoys struggling. But that doesn't mean we don't choose it. There's something about the human condition that seems to require struggle for growth. We recognize that, and so we sometimes seek it out. Runners understand this perhaps as well as anyone. In fact we employ a specific word to refer to struggling with a purpose: Endurance.

We define our hobby as an Endurance sport. When we subject our friends and family to talk of pace and distance, hydration and nutrition, heat and sweat and pain - we're talking about Endurance. But the important factor that distinguishes a struggle as Endurance is choice. Choice is what differentiates Endurance from suffering. "To suffer" is passive, to be afflicted with hardship, to experience a struggle, to hurt. But "to Endure" is an active verb, a word with intentionality and purpose. We Endure because we see something greater in the struggle.
To Endure: to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding.
The kids I run for, many of them suffer. They are born into a condition, a way of life they couldn't possibly have chosen, and one they can't see a way out of. Unsafe water, poor sanitation, malnutrition, child exploitation, hopelessness - these are the dangers facing kids in many communities across the globe. This is their struggle, their cause for suffering. And my reason for choosing to Endure. This is why #todayirun. This is why I've run 4 miles with a 40lb jerrycan on my shoulder. This is why I'm training for my 3rd marathon. This is why I hit the streets with a photo of a kid on my back. I choose this struggle to end theirs. I Endure so they don't have to suffer.

This is why I still have hope when things get hard. There is purpose in my struggle.

If you're interested in helping me spread hope by sponsoring a child, you can find one here. Or just reach out to me on facebook or instagram (or give me a call) - I'd be happy to talk more about child sponsorship.


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