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The Story Economy Blog

Sometimes, You Should Speed up the Hill

September 28, 2016

eureka-springs-hillThe last half-marathon I did was three years ago and I got my personal best time.

I’ve been hesitant to do another one for fear that I won’t be able to match my time. It’s easier to just not do it than to be disappointed in myself.

Yes, sometimes I really am that human.

But . . . it’s time, so I’ve decided to do one this November. This means I’m back to doing tortuous hill repeats. A hill repeat is exactly what it sounds like: you pick a hill and you run it over and over again. It’s hard, but it makes you faster.

My strategy for hill intervals has always been to start out conservative, stay steady, and try to pick up speed at the end for a big finish. If I go out too fast, I reason, I’ll get prematurely tired and won’t have enough to make it through. If I give it all I’ve got, there won’t be enough left. Better to save something in reserve than spend it all too fast.

But, hey, I’m in my 40s now. If ever there is a decade for changing things up, it’s your forties. So this time around, I’ve been toying with something different—something I’ve thought about, but never really done.

I’m starting out really fast, right from the get-go.

I mean, I am literally running as fast I can in that first 20 seconds: arms pumping, feet pounding, firecrackers in my running shoes.

Instead of taking off with the calm gaze of determination, I take off like a wild woman. I lay it on the line, right away, with no fear of getting tired too early. This is completely unlike me and unlike the way I do anything (which is another way of say everything).

Showing all your cards right away, leading from the gate, going all in: pick your metaphor. I don’t like any of them and am generally suspicious of such behavior. Are these not the tendencies of the irresponsible, the hotheads, the inexperienced, the people consumed with passion and not enough sense to know how to pace themselves?

Not me. I am a steady girl. An expert at pacing.

And yet . . . this approach shaves five seconds off my time. Not on every interval. But on most of them. Yes, I’m exhausted and gasping for air at the top of the hill. But I’m always exhausted and gasping for air at the top of the hill.

Naturally, I’m wondering if my steadiness and pacing (qualities I prize) might also be . . . limiting me?

Your Renewable Resources

As I wrote about in January, this is my year of steady and quiet (as if I need a year to describe who I already am, but still). I’ve been on a learning curve all year, and I’ve had to get humble about not knowing as much as I thought I did. I’ve told myself over and over again, stay steady.

With my discovery of how much faster I can be irresponsibly speeding up the hill, I can’t help but feel a little bit like Walter White in Breaking Bad. When he starts covertly cooking meth because he’s certain he’s going to die, the thrill of being so bad suddenly gives him permission to live: he stands up to bullies, he gets revenge on jerks, he comes alive in bed again.

The thrill of purposely not pacing myself feels like permission to do something.

But . . . what?

I’m pretty sure illegal drug activity is not the career path for me.

But seriously, it’s about something.

It’s not a lesson about money—I already balance saving and spending quite well.

It’s not about work—I tend to go after what I want.

I don’t think it’s about showing more vulnerability—these days, I’m pretty open with the people I love.

It’s not even really about running. The truth is, you do have to pace yourself for longer runs and races.

I’ve decided it’s actually a lesson about fear—or to be more exact, the fear of renewable resources not renewing. I’m talking about resources of the physical, emotional, and spiritual sort. What if you spend too much love, too much energy, too much hope, too much creativity—too much of whatever you tend to hoard—and the contract negotiations with your psyche don’t go as planned? You show your cards too soon, and you get screwed—since whoever speaks first in a negotiation is the loser, right? What if you don’t get renewed at the current rate, and you are left gasping for air in the middle of the hill?

The fear of that shortfall can really keep a person in check. Not having enough is such a basic human fear, but it shows up in so many different ways (in so many different disguises) in our lives. It’s fascinating, really. But man, is it limiting.

Laying it on the line, being all in: I don’t think courage or strength is necessarily what you need to do these things. Rather, it’s trust you need. Trust that your resources will renew at exactly the right time, like a stack of shiny library books you get three more weeks on.

Up the hill we go, fast as we can. I mean full out. Ready? On the count of three . . .

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