Words of occasional wisdom from Bruce Oakley

Making Honey

Posted by boakley59 on June 8, 2011

Interesting — as in “ironic” or “weird” or even “disappointing” — that this post has taken so long to get written. We’re up to the “E for Effort” in the “BEEP” series, so this is not the one where you’d want to fall short. Particularly bad example as a coach.

In my defense, I have been trying in clumsy little ways. Since this “E” brings us to “BEE,” lines have come to mind about how there’s “a buzz around here lately” as new runners get going, finding new and perhaps unimagined enjoyment in the push for fitness. I’ve thought of how the “running bug” has caught some of us who are now “busy as a BEE” on the roads, at the track and sharing our stories online.

You can see that Effort can be strained, even as the point is to develop graceful Balance and Efficiency. But the thing about Effort is to just do it. This is good advice even if it has become a hyper-exposed marketing slogan. Another version comes in words of wisdom from the bride-to-be in “Chariots of Fire” after Harold Abrahams loses for the first time and whines that he won’t run if he can’t win: “You can’t win if you don’t run.”

We’ve talked before about running as something that is simple or at least elemental: It doesn’t take a lot of equipment, it can be done pretty much anywhere and anytime we’re ready, and our bodies are made for it. But you still have to get out there. And you have to get out there in heat, in cold, in crowds, on your own, in sadness and in joy.

Even that’s not really enough. Effort isn’t just moving; it’s also attention. Running should be enjoyable, but if it’s done cavalierly, it can take a heavy toll. Our bodies are made to move, but they are susceptible to wear and tear. Repetitive movement of the wrong kind has the effect of a rock chafing against a rope — eventually the rope goes to pieces. So, we have to make an Effort to learn about the right kind of shoes; we have to practice to make our movement graceful and fluid so we build endurance and speed without wrecking bone and tissue.

We talked about Balance and Efficiency as attributes but also as actions or approaches. Effort has a duality of its own: It is exertion, as in “giving 110 percent,” and it is preparation, as in knowing the race course before you run or what kind of shoes you need or what the best restorative drinks and foods are. You have to work to be ready. You have to work to improve. You even have to work to have fun.

But that’s the honey from this “BEE”: If you work hard enough through the beginning roughness, you will run to the fun. The Effort is more like play at that point, not work.

“No pain, no gain” is the line from the late great Steve Prefontaine, but he was heavy on the exertion side, working on being one of the best racers in the world made popular in exercise videos by that famous Jane (Fonda). But “Run for fun” is the better line for all of us in our everyday pursuit of being our best selves.

The most important Effort is to put a smile on your face, because that’s the part over which you alone have control. A friend posted recently on Facebook:

“Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” —Lou Holtz

Attitude is all up to you. People can yank your chain; hills and heat make it hard to run. How you react to such distress is up to you. You can reply gracefully or just ignore provocation, which usually will defuse it. You can turn your thoughts to the strength you gain through adversity, which helps it pass more quickly. You can smile anytime and be a light to others.

Do it often enough, and soon it won’t seem like any Effort at all, the way a bee makes honey.

Beep beep. Roadrunner.


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