I’m in love—like, seriously in love—with a lot of things. Hoodies. Short stories. Coffeehouses. Forest Park. Pimento-stuffed olives. Mariachi bands. Trucker hats. Falafel. Retro wayfarer sunglasses. I’m also in love with a lot of people. Charles Dickens. Mark Twain. Steve McQueen. Dolly Levi.
Okay, so three of my four love interests are dead and the other is a fictional character. Let’s not get distracted by details.
This point is this fine world is brimming with things to fall in love with. Wonderfully loveable things. And these wonderfully loveable things help us run faster.
Except for maybe the falafel.
It will be a year ago last month that I rekindled a romance with an old flame. It was Thanksgiving Day, and as I stood on the start line facing 3.1 miles of torment and glory, I fell head over heels in love with him all over again. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome.
Otherwise known as racing.
Never would I have anticipated the fires that spark would incite. What started with an unexpected 5K PR turned into a year of romance with the sport of running. Fueled by passion, I returned to hill workouts and speed workouts. I entered 5Ks. And 10Ks. And my new favoritest of things, the Frostbite Series. I even let myself get hoodwinked into track meets.
Not just track meets, but collegiate track meets.
Not just collegiate track meets, but indoor collegiate track meets. At Indiana University. On a banked, 200-meter track.
Guys. The Alabama Crimson Tide were there.
Yes, on any given weekend, you could find me racing. Me. People, I had spent the last year running without a training plan, without a goal race, without a Garmin, and without direction of any kind. I was running in a state of anarchy. Because racing terrified me. It always had. But, then, just like that, a fling with a Turkey Trot changed the trajectory of my training. I was infatuated. I was enamored. I was pinning bib numbers to my singlet like they were going out of style. And we, racing and I, became the oddest of couples.
Imagine Al Gore and Sarah Palin… actually… don’t. Don’t imagine that.
This year has been a wild ride. I’ve PR’d in every distance from the 5K to the half marathon. I’ve also blown up in every distance twice as many times. I’ve learned when to race the clock and when to race the person next to you. I’ve learned the difference between racing on the road and racing on a track. I’ve learned that she who races must also recover from her races, lest her IT band explode and force her to walk four miles back home. I’ve learned you should never take racing—or your ability to race—for granted. I’ve learned that racing is awful and racing is wonderful and either way you must accept the pain that comes with the whole affair, because you are in love, and as Nazareth sang so epically, love hurts.
Which brings us back to the original point. I didn’t just run races because I was in love. Because I was in love, I ran strong races. Love is fun. Love is exciting. Love makes you do crazy things—like run faster than you should and further than you should and better than you should. Love is the ultimate positive energy. It motivates you to do hard things. It drives you to keep going when you are tired. It inspires you to push past the pain. It focuses on the positives when you are surrounded by negatives.
If you have a race coming up, here’s my advice: Run like someone crazy in love.
Run in love with one thing. Run in love with a million things. Because love is a pretty powerful thing. Even if it’s a love affair with something silly. Like pirates.
Case in point: A couple of years ago, I raced a marathon in which the floor for “elite” was generously low. Because of this, I had the opportunity to use the elite water stations. Basically, you prepare your own water bottles the night before the race and drop them off at packet pick-up. The powers-that-be then transport your water to the elite stations along the course, usually a few hundred yards down the road from the regular water stations. The whole concept is pretty cool, but the best part is that it affords runners the chance to decorate their water bottles. With ribbons. Or bows.
Let it be noted that my water bottles were emblazoned with pirate ship stickers and scull-and-crossbone flags. And I PR’d. I’m not giving all the credit to the pirate water bottles. I’m just sayin’.
Don’t discount the power of love, folks. It’s a curious thing. Especially on race day. And there is so much in this fabulous world with which to be smitten. So find a way—any way—to celebrate what you love. (Heck, I ran my 50K in hot pink plastic wayfarer sunglasses.) And remember, even if it hurts, it’s still love.
Love hurts. Love scars. Love helps runners to run PRs.
(I also love rhyming things.)
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.