Whether you are new to running or have been at this most of your long life, there is a voice inside your head that travels with you everywhere you go. It is the voice of your Inner Runner.
That voice tells you how fast or slow you can go each day. Sometimes the Inner Runner is excited to be on the road with you. On other days, not so much.
Sometimes the Inner Runner does not even let you get out the door. It conspires with your bruised ego, your deflated notion of self-respect or your depressed heart to discourage you from putting one foot in front of the other.
But if you refuse to listen and get out the door the Inner Runner will often change its tune and start talking to you in more positive terms. “See, this isn’t so bad!” the Inner Runner will say. “I told you we should go!”
In other words, the Inner Runner is sometimes a pathetic liar. It will also tell you that you can’t run as fast as you’d like, or as far. Yet when you do increase the pace, it wants to take all the credit.
Your Inner Runner will complain about feet that hurt, knees that ache and eyes that smart from sweat. Truth be told, the Inner Runner likes things easier than they really are sometimes. You have to tell the Inner Runner to Shut the Fuck Up at times.
At other times the Inner Runner can get too enthusiastic and carried away with the thrill of actually liking this running thing. At the end of the week when you are just two miles short of your mileage goal, the Inner Runner can send you out the door to put in two more miles when the family is waiting and would just like to get in the car to go have pizza. You should tell your Inner Runner that those extra two miles can wait. They really can.
The Inner Runner loves all kinds of weather but is likely to complain or get a little freaked out if things drastically change within a single run. The Inner Runner craves predictability.
Yet the Inner Runner also hates boredom. That means you may need to start a conversation with the Inner Runner before you begin your daily run and say, “No, we’re not running that same loop down by the river again. We need variety.”
The Inner Runner will usually go along, but not without trying to distract you from the new plan. The Inner Runner recalls things like the cute guy or girl you saw on the trail yesterday because curiosity and the Eternal Hope of Attraction is a jealous partner when it comes to choosing running routes.
For much the same reason your Inner Runner can take over your brain at social occasions like the post-race gathering at Starbucks where everyone is sipping coffee and enjoying being done with their run. You’ll be pleasantly talking with someone and sounding kind of cool, calm and collected when the Inner Runner suddenly wells up in your head and you blurt out something insane like, “I’m totally freaking out about this upcoming marathon.”
But don’t worry, everyone around you will understand that the voice they just heard was your Inner Runner and not really you. So they talk to you instead of the Inner Runner and say something calming like, “Don’t worry. We all get nervous before a big event.”
To which the Inner Runner starts a parallel and distracting dialogue. “Oh, sure, those people think it’s easy. They’ve already done a marathon! I’m new at this! I haven’t even run 20 miles yet, much less 26.2! Omigod, I’ll never get one of those running ovals for my car if I don’t figure out how to do this!”
Then someone will tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, where’d you go? Did your Inner Runner take over your brain?”
And you’ll snap to awareness again, smiling that stupid smile that says you’re coming out of a kind of runner’s hypnosis. “Ah, yeah. I was just thinking, ” you blurt.
“We’ve all been there,” your friend will say with a degree of assurance. “Just keep thinking positive.”
Well, you desperately hope your Inner Runner can do that. Otherwise you worry that you’ll go insane from wrestling with the voice of the Inner Runner.
But the next time you lace on your running shoes, the Inner Runner behaves in an unusual fashion. It actually waits a few minutes to begin talking as you warm up and stretch. Then it quietly asks the question you most like to hear when you’re a runner:
“Where we going today?”
And you smile and begin to put one foot in front of the other. Thoughts start to flow and add up. It turns out the Inner Runner really is your friend after all. They were just being a little bitch or a little bastard to toughen you up for when the real tests come along.