The Runner’s Journey
Welcome to the club, you crazy little winner. You did it, you went out there and got addicted to running, addicted to using your body to make yourself feel good. Addicted to working hard for yourself and getting results. Maybe even addicted to my writing, hah! It’s the best addiction you could possibly have, the running one; you’ll meet tons of great humans, you’ll explore forests and towns and all sorts of exotic locations, you’ll get higher than a dope fiend and you’ll be healthy while doing it. Just know, a crazy dude from New Jersey is proud of you.
So what now? Keep running, keep doing you. Hell, even convince your friends to do it too. And convince them to buy this book, of course. Other than that, give running barefoot a go. It seems a little hippie-dippie, but it can be really good for you, there’s a ton of science out there about grounding (being in direct, uninsulated contact with the Earth) and all the health benefits that come from it, so why not? You’ll feel connected to the Earth in a way that you probably never have, and it’ll only hurt until you graduate from tenderfoot to… toughfoot, I guess. Plus, you’ll get to call other humans tenderfoot. How great is that?
Before we wrap, I want to talk about the structure of this book. You may have noticed that the first chapter, the one about me, was by far the longest, and then after that they just kind of petered off. I wrote this book with the runner’s journey in mind; my intent was to mirror each stage of the journey with the subject of each chapter. When you start running, you learn who you are – how much pain you can take, what you’re capable of, how your body works, all that good stuff.
You also may find yourself working through a lot of pent up you-dilemmas as you run. This is normal. Running is a form of meditation, it brings everything you have bottled up inside to the surface so you can deal with it, or so you can bottle it up again and wait for it to resurface in the future. Before you can progress to the next stage, you need to deal with all of your nonsense (because at the end of the day, that’s what you-dilemmas are: nonsense. If you’re going to take it from anyone, take it from me). If you decide to stay firm on your nonsensical stance on your nonsense, your journey will get held up and you’ll have to go back and rewrite this entire book.
The longest and most difficult part of the journey is the beginning, finding out who you are and putting up with yourself, figuring out which character you play in the grand epoch that is life. After you figure out which character you are, the next logical step is to play that character. Again, it’s easier said than done. Why should you play a character? Why should you define yourself, thereby trapping yourself in a niche that you can’t get out of? Why should you run every day to feel good if you can run once in a blue moon and do drugs every day (or work every day!) (or do volunteer service every day!!) to feel good?
Well, because running directly benefits you, and that other stuff directly benefits other humans. Running is good for your body, mind, and soul, and it teaches you how to work hard just by doing it. You may not get it at first, but that’s okay. Reading words on a screen or a piece of paper is very different from understanding the meaning of those words. Even if you try running once, or a few times, you still may not immediately understand. That’s okay. Keep trying. Once you do figure it out, the process becomes easier. Then, all you really have left is to put that understanding into action.
The third chapter is called How To Run, but really it’s about how to start running. To start doing anything, you just have to get out there and do it. To quote about a million different humans and specifically one rapper: ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it. You’re not going to be a master straight out the gate (unless you’re notLT-y), and everyone has to start somewhere.
The remaining chapters are about how to keep doing it – record yourself, see your own progress, make it real. Find others to establish yourself among. Hone your technique, perfect your training, expand and create your own workouts. Then, start competing against other humans. Before you know it, you’ll have won a medal. And then another. And then a few trophies. Eventually, you’ll get sick of winning medals and trophies because of how many of the damned things you have laying around.
Then comes the really tricky part, the reason I taught you how to run in the first place. Through running, you’ve taught yourself discipline, you’ve taught yourself how to focus up for an extended period of time. You’ve taught yourself endurance and patience, perseverance, when it is necessary to rest and when to ignore that voice in the back of your head nagging you to stop. You’ve learned how to work hard and directly benefit from it; in other words, you’ve learned how to torture yourself and enjoy it. Now, take those lessons and apply them to whatever you have going on in your life, actually or potentially.
You think it was fun writing this book? I mean it was kind of fun, but at the same time it was grueling. And rewriting it? Fuhgeddaboudit. The amount of hours I spent sitting down, staring at the screen, and maniacally tapping the keyboard just to publish it and then go back and republish a more baller version of it a few months later… and I don’t even have an English degree! Never took an elective writing course in my life, and this shit’s a whole hundred pages long. Hard pass; I would have rather went running. But I buckled down and got it done, and now you’re reading it.
Running, and life itself, is kind of like a savings account: the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it. So, when you’re ready, stop putting effort into someone else’s life and start putting it into your own. You have the tools; all you must do is use them. To quote a character from one of my favorite novels: “You can take that to the fuckin’ bank.”
Thank you for reading this book, and double thank you for getting out there and improving yourself. And, if you suffered through the insufferable first edition and still, for some reason, believed in me enough to get this edition, I can’t thank you enough. We live in a world that can be pretty scary and unforgiving at times, but that’s only because so many humans are torturing themselves and not enjoying it. By running, you’re putting forward the effort to make the world a better place. Big changes don’t happen overnight – they happen in tiny increments over time, and you’re out there doing your part. Who knows, maybe someone will see how much you’ve improved yourself and they’ll start improving themselves, too. It’s a chain reaction, just like dominoes; to get started, all it needs is a little push.
Be well, runner. I’ll see you on the course~