The Taper, Distilled: The New Sincerity and Optimism

Stephen Dunn

My thoughts are scattered here, probably more so than usual. That being said, I felt the need to share some of my thoughts going into my first attempt at an ultramarathon. I've come to the point in training where there's nothing more that can be done but getting to the starting line. Fortunately, I'm finding myself in a very positive mental space.

"Our credo: "Be More Awesome." Our lifestyle: "Maximum Fun." Throw caution to the wind, friend, and live The New Sincerity."

-- Jesse Thorn, "A Manifesto for The New Sincerity"

There's an old axiom that says you get out of running what you put into it. That's probably an accurate statement; putting in a maximum effort often yields maximum results. But like most interesting and worthwhile things, there's more to running than just a direct relationship between effort and reward -- it's a far more nuanced than that.

I have a tendency to, when unchecked, drift towards both laziness and cynicism. Neither of these things are particularly good qualities to have. Over the past few months I've been running without headphones and have been more able to actively reflect on things like this. This has made a huge difference -- the reflection, not the headphone thing (though they may be inexorably linked).

Every now and again, some unfunny co-worker or relative will ask "what are you running from?" (this question is usually be followed by the laugh of a person who finds themselves funny). When unprepared, it's a very difficult question to answer on the spot.

At least as of late, I've found that I'm not running from anything, per se, but rather I'm running towards optimism. I'm naturally quite optimistic, and with the right prodding I tend to be quite content. Running does the trick, at least for the time being. While I'm not running with the sole aim of contentedness and optimism, it's certainly something on my mind from time to time (at least when calf pain and tacos aren't on my mind). As of late, my workouts have been extremely conservative in terms of pacing and have been shorter than they probably should be going into a 50-miler. There's nothing that I can do about it now. I've been running in a very positive place mentally, and that's something that cannot be quantified and put into a chart.

A few very good runs as of late and good PT sessions have resulted in a very low-lying optimism -- one that hasn't even been driven away by the terrifying realization that my first ultra race is 13 days away. I'm to the point in my training that I'm now tapering and there is little more that I can do but get my head in the right place. So here's to throwing caution to the wind and having as much fun running as possible the next few weeks.

I'll have plenty of time to reflect afterwards.

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