Patience is a virtue, but it’s also a necessity. It’s something to be cultivated, a guard against worry and stress. Patience gives you flowers blooming in your garden, perfectly risen bread, the ability to touch your toes. It goes hand in hand with discipline, persistence, consistency. Not particularly sexy words, but ones that will reward you.
I recently read a piece called Patience Wears Sneakers, by distance runner Sabrina Little, in which she writes about patience and running. She likens training to a wildflower field, which looks barren and bare until the flowers burst forth:
“They had been there all along. […] Progress happens unseen, under the surface, until due season. Suddenly it blooms.”
Patience with running is hard. Especially when you’re not sure that what you’re doing is making a difference. It’s forever tempting to chop and change and try new approaches. It’s why one runners’ mantra, among many, is:
Trust the process.
Stick with it. Stick with it a bit longer. Take the time to look, holistically, at what you’re doing, and keep a training diary with notes about how you’re feeling. If you’re already using Strava, this is the easiest place to do that, though there’s something very pleasing about the ritual of a written logbook.
I make notes on how well I’ve slept, how much alcohol I’ve drunk, my energy levels, how my injury is feeling, any niggles on top of that, and whether I’ve stretched or massaged. Then, of course, how the run felt. Was it harder than usual, did I warm up as I got into it, did the reps get easier or tougher?
The very action of everything writing down means that you are more aware, more conscious of little pains or little wins that happen over the course of the week and month. And then you can look back and see not just how your mileage went up and down, but how your mood and effort and wellbeing varied. Some people are introspective and thoughtful enough to do this all in their head, but if I don’t write it down, I forget it.
Patience is even harder when you’re coming back from injury. You’re not just comparing yourself to those around you, but your fitter self. Progress is agonisingly slow, and on top of that, any lack of patience on your side – the burning need to do too much, too soon – can set you back even further.
Sabrina, in her piece, defines patience as “suffering through something uncomfortable.” Unfortunately, this means the boring bits as much as the warrior pain of a race. Discomfort is easier when there’s a shiny new PB waiting at the end of it.
But, delayed gratification is powerful. When you get to where you want to be, eventually, the appreciation will be even greater.