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Patience. In running, it’s not just a virtue. It’s a necessity.


Some people are patient.

Other people?

Other people check their watches every 24 seconds, subconsciously chew the insides of their cheeks, grumble grouchily, make obnoxious exhalations of air that may be accompanied by a quiet curse, tap their feet, and take it as a deep personal offense every time the bus is even one minute late.

I am one of these people.

What about you?

These impatient people guard their time jealously. They are uncomfortable and anxious if it becomes apparent that they will not arrive at least five minutes early to wherever it is they are going. They must train themselves not to be the social outcast who comes to parties when the invitation tells them to. If someone asks them the time of day, these people are known to bark out, “10:36!” or “3:02!” If someone informs them that the group is leaving in five minutes, these individuals will be sighing and standing by the door precisely five minutes later, wondering why all the other doofuses are still noodling around and completely disregarding the aforementioned Departure Time, which, in their impatient minds, is now the Eleventh Commandment.

These people are known to endure stormy internal temper tantrums while sitting at airport gates, standing in long grocery checkout lines, or trying to corral perpetually late co-workers into showing up promptly for professional commitments.

Try not to dislike these people for their impatience. They simply value timeliness.

Perhaps, however, the impatient person in question is a runner. Perhaps this person’s impatience is manifesting in her training and racing. Perhaps she needs a reminder…

That distance running is not a sport for the impatient.

That distance running is not a sport for those who depend on instant gratification.

Instant gratification is acceptable under certain circumstances, sure. But it can drain an experience of meaning and substance. It’s like instant coffee. Or instant oatmeal. Or worst of all, those dreadful Instant Breakfast packets by Carnation that taste like aspartame, powdered titanium, and strychnine.

Lately, I’ve been in need of such a reminder.

After a weekend where I excitedly followed from afar as so many running blog pals excelled at their respective races, I found that after my excitement faded, I was… unsatisfied for myself. Unsatisfied that I’m so far away from any racing opportunities. Unsatisfied that I am so fit and have no way to prove it to myself. Fidgety, impatient, and frustrated that the next real race I can conceivably participate in (without blowing thousands of dollars on a plane ticket out of Alaska), is in April. Yes, this entire thought process is wildly immature, I know.

And so?

I will bide my time.

Stay below the radar. Keep my nose down. Get the miles in. Respect the aches.

Keep on getting it done. Throw on the yaktrax for the snowy days. Put the ice studs on when it freezes. Dodge through the slush. Stuff the newspaper in my water-bloated trainers day after day. Deal with it, gut it out, limit the whining, cut the theatrics.

Because soon there will be more daylight than I even know what to do with.

Soon the streets will be iceless, the sidewalks clear, and my legs toughened with mileage and sharpened by quality work.

And when that day comes, I’ll be ready.


Either that or I’ll be burned out and injured after acting on the overzealous sentiments detailed here.

In either case, I will be patient.

Are there certain things in life that you have no patience for? For me, it’s lateness. Luckily, I’ve gotten better about not being such an uptight Time Nazi.

How do you approach winter training? Is it a maintenance period, an opportunity to let your body recharge, an opportunity to build up? Something else?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/06/2010 08:05

    Huh, good luck with that. I think I would probably try to do as much snow-related cross-training as possible. Do you ski? Is the terrain good for cross-country skiing where you are?

  2. 12/06/2010 09:43

    Wow this sums up a lot of my problems when it comes to running all in one post. I’ve always been inpatient. I value timeliness, like you mentioned, and I get antsy when people aren’t time. I also hate waiting in line!
    I feel the same way when it comes to running and watching other people run/train on blogs. I instantly want to be as experienced as them and have as much stamina built up and I forget that that takes time. ..And then I get injured. I’m in the injured stage right now but I hope that I can soon regroup and take it slow : )

  3. Lacey permalink
    12/06/2010 10:53

    lol. i appreciate this post. i can be very impatient but i’ve gotten sooo much better. it depends on a lot of things, like if i’m running late, if i have already been waiting long, if i’m in a bad mood…

    yoga and meditation are actually pretty good for improving these things even though we make fun of them… or even just accepting things, circumstances, and other people. it’s hard not being in control of everything sometimes, even about ourselves 🙂

    i have to say i love your artwork as always!!!!

  4. 12/06/2010 11:34

    Oh man. That is the awesomest grasshopper I have ever seen.

    I am lazy yet impatient at the same time. Makes for an interesting dynamic. Kind of a “hurry hurry hurry nah f*** it” attitude.

    They don’t have any races where you live? Is it because the sun sets at 3 p.m.?

  5. 12/06/2010 12:25

    i am SO impatient. like, living in a city where i am forced to rely on the (sometimes horribly unreliable) train system to get anywhere is like my own personal hell. get to the train stop, look for train. 30 seconds go by. *where the #*&$) is the train??* train comes by in the other direction. *why isn’t that MY #*#)@ train* it’s bad when it’s nice out, when winter sets in…oh boy.

    as for running, my impatience usually manifests itself in my inability to run as slow as i should on my easy days or long runs. i learned from my last marathon cycle that running slow on easy days was REALLY good for me, but as soon as i was back to running on my own? hammering. always. perhaps i will learn, someday. this has not happened yet…

  6. 12/06/2010 15:03

    I am super impatient. I CANNOT stand being late. I’m the only one of my friends and family that is like this and it drives me mad. I lie to my little sister and tell her earlier times so she will be on time. I used to have a long commute and had to put tape over my clock because I was hyperventilating over being a few minutes late. (My boss didn’t care and knew I had a long commute.)

    Running wise – I get frustrated really easily.

  7. 12/06/2010 16:10

    Awwww… I am sorry if I make you impatient! Two things- I felt EXACTLY the same way in October during the week of Chicago. I was still getting in shape post-thesis while a bunch of people I knew were running their fall marathons. I don’t know if I every wrote about it but I was like “gaaaaahhhh this should be me setting a PR right now.” Other than that, all I can say is to allow some runs to be valued for being memorable, as much as they are for training. I’m never going to forget the times I sploshed through shin-deep ice puddles in Boston, that’s for sure.

    For me, winter will be a time for me to back off on running quality (for recovery), but focus on gaining some muscular strength (for the next go-round).

  8. 12/06/2010 18:35

    Ahh, patience. I’ve never thought of myself as super patienr, and I’m sort of chronically late. Both poor qualities I guess. I think I’m getting more patient as I get older, and distance running is definitely helping. I love your grasshopper.

  9. 12/06/2010 18:37

    You have every right to be impatient if you have to wait for April for a big race. The good thing is, it’s almost within spitting distance of a training cycle, and training is so much more fun with a big race to work for, so just last a few more weeks, then you can make it all about that April race. I’m really impatient, btw. Always have been, always will be. 🙂

  10. 12/07/2010 10:45

    I hate it when people are late! I hate it even more when something happens and causes me to be late AND a hypocrite!

    I say stage your own Yaktrax time trial and try to beat your own PR all winter.

  11. 12/07/2010 12:38

    I am not a patient person. Living in the age of immediate satisfaction doesn’t help either. I’m with jess – make up random time trials to beat thru out the winter to keep the boredom away (as much as possible anyway)

  12. 12/07/2010 13:00

    I’m impatient. I’m impatient with the lack of daylight impinging on my runs in the winter and the oppressive heat and humidity that slows me down all summer. Yes, I’m a big baby. With regard to running, I wish away about three quarters of the year, waiting for those few weeks of awesome running in the Spring and Fall.

    I’m also a nervous inside of the cheek chewer. I thought I was the only one.

  13. 12/08/2010 01:07

    Great post. I’d see this lack of available races as an opportunity grasshopper, to train without the distraction of the next race. Build the fitness you have to a new level! Come out in April and smash your PBs by inconceivable margins.

    I have no patience for shopping queues at Woolies. I don’t mind waiting 5-10 minutes for a mate to turn up for a coffee appointment. That’s good people-watching time.

    It’s summer, so I don’t have to approach winter training 😉 Our winters aren’t too harsh (no snow or ice), so it’s business as usual. A different racing season, which is good — cross country and road races (track racing in summer).

    P.S. A good tip: Use (cheap) paper towels to stuff in wet shoes — they’re much more absorbent than newspaper.

  14. 12/08/2010 13:14

    First, I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful comment on my post the other day. I think we’re both struggling with similar feelings about our running right now. I an definitely NOT a patient person i.e. I often think “I just did a gnarly speed workout 5 minutes ago, so I should be a better runner already. Maybe a PR this weekend? Right, right?” Le sigh. Unfortunately as you said – running doesn’t always work that way. It takes time. It takes miles. It takes wisdom. Heh. I think I’m going to back off and just maintain my base for awhile. But come mid-February, I’m gonna bust out the big guns 🙂

  15. 12/09/2010 12:21

    haha…patience is definitely a virtue i’ve yet to learn. i blame cell phones, microwaves, and the internet.

    but, lucky for me, winter is the best time to train in Australia. (i know, i know..rub it in…) although right now i feel your pain, sister. it’s -25’C in Northern Alberta (Canada) which means exercise has included running from the front door to the car. good thing i have an abundant supply of coffee and Christmas cookies to make me feel nice and healthy.

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