My son jokes that I may have to add up all my driving miles to achieve the ambitious running target I set for 2012. Am I crazy to do this? I think I am not. Why? Running’s difficulty is part of its value. It is allowing me to sleep better, feel stronger, have more energy, be more confident, think more clearly, and make more friends. Running builds character because it is difficult, and because many of the virtues can neither be exhibited nor developed in the absence of hardship. Regular running helps bring a sense of order in my life. The activity is restorative for the body and spirit, and contributes to a sense of self-realization.
Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Running is nothing but suffering. And suffering provides an occasion for exemplifying and developing positive character traits such as compassion, generosity, and courage. Hence, suffering can become an occasion for “soul making” which eventually will lead to happiness, fulfillment and inner peace. Running also gives me opportunity to self evaluate. Most of us are capable of achieving far more than we think we can. Only by setting high, demanding goals can we maximize our full potential. There is no value of temperance unless there is some pleasure one must forgo. One of the aptitudes of the wise is the ability to put off present pleasure or overcome present pain for greater reward down the road. Socrates tells us to make right choices and see the real value independent of present appearances or immediate sufferings.
“Our life”, said the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius (AD121-80), “is what our thought make it”. This is a point on which philosophers, running coaches, and successful people in all walks of life agree: Winners believe in themselves. We all love to take credit for our successes while blaming external, uncontrollable factors for our failures. Here is some words of wisdom. World famous runner and physician-philosopher, George Sheehan says, “to succeed anything, you need passion”. Sheehan found running to be “a path to maturity, a growth process” that continually challenged him “to go further, to grow more, and to become a more complete human being”.