Running Long

This morning I ran more than 10 miles for the first time this year. I enjoy running long, but not until I get going. Sometimes not until it’s over, even. I really have to psych myself up to get out the door.

To slip out for 6 or 7 miles is easy and fun, and I don’t have to think too hard about it, and if I feel like pushing it to 8 I can. No problem. But to commit in advance to double digits feels intimidating. I leave home and I know I won’t be back for more than an hour and a half. I have to consciously start slowly so I don’t get tired too fast. I have to get out early enough that the time commitment doesn’t wreck the whole day – ideally before Zoe wakes up so I don’t squander Steve’s goodwill.

I run all the time, but the long run is the workout I don’t look forward to. I plan it a week in advance and try to prepare mentally. I lay my clothes out the night before. I decide on the route. And still it’s easy to talk myself out of it even as I’m running. I don’t go fast when I go long – the danger is not that I’ll be tired or injured by the end, but that I might just not run the whole way. It’s so tempting to turn around early.

Certain practice sessions feel this way, too, like full play-throughs of recital material or concertos – “performance practice” sessions. I know before I even start that it won’t be fun. That I’m going to want to stop and work through details instead of playing on. That at the end of a movement I will want to step away from the oboe and check my email instead of plowing on through the rest of the music.

I love to perform, but the truth is that continuous playing on the oboe is tiring and uncomfortable, and in the absence of an audience energizing me I would prefer not to. Obviously, though, giving in to that desire is a fast road to an unprepared performance. I have to live through the discomfort in private a few times so that I can predict it and ignore it when I’m in the moment, and in the eye of the public.

In a way, then, the mental toughness that keeps me running for just 3 more loops, then two, then finally one more when all I want to do is head for home is the same energy that keeps me on track in my practice, doing what I know I need to do.

Even aside from the physical conditioning, running makes me stronger, and improves my playing. I never will give this up.

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