Sunday, September 13, 2009

Miles of Trials, the Trial of Miles

There is a section in the book at left, that speaks of Trials. It states, basically, that to go from mediocre to great, requires not great effort, but great sustained effort, over weeks, months, years. Miles upon miles upon miles. The high level marathoners in the world, for example, typically run between 80 to 150 miles per week. And if you happen to be a Kenyan runner, you know that you have put in some 10,000 miles of running by the time you hit high school, most of it in high altitude, hilly terrain.

Is it any wonder that they sit atop the distance running world?

There is decent evidence that it takes about 10,000 hours of a certain type of dedication to acheive expert status, regardless of the field. Chess, medicine, archery, running, stand-up comedy, perhaps even prayer; it's all about the same. However, 10,000 hours of the wrong type of effort leaves you no better.

The "proper" effort is defined by endless soul-searching and upward striving, in trying to find your weaknesses and take specific action to correct them. In running it's easy: if you are slow, run fast. If you can't handle the distance, run farther. In other aspects of life, it's a bit more difficult to see just what the problem is and how to correct it.

This journey of trying to lose weight is a case in point. Not eating for a day (Fast Sunday, anyone?) does not contribute to weight loss. It's taking a little bit off, day by day, that makes the difference, and sustaining this difference forever. It's changing the approach to food. It's realizing that you don't have to give in to social pressure, or your own body's pressure, to eat junk you shouldn't eat.

This is unsustainable until you have a goal. My goal is to be able to run a marathon, but also to be able to have the energy and ability to play with my kids and enjoy my life without being limited by my lack of fitness. Weight loss plays a big role here, as I can't really imagine running a marathon, or running around the park with Logan, with an extra 35 pounds of fat jiggling around the middle.

The guys over at Gym Jones ( were responsible for the fitness of the actors in the movie "300" ( They had specific goals and a very narrow time frame, and through very hard work managed to acheive. The following is an excerpt from their website as linked above:

"Maybe you'll overcome your self-imposed (or worse, society-imposed) limitations and shine even more brightly. Wow, you're getting it: positive reinforcement for hard work and suffering. So maybe you give your goal even more significance and you begin cutting away the ideas and the expectations and the people who you believe prevent you from achieving it. Now you become a real selfish [jerk], and you begin paying attention every second of every minute of every hour of every day, and you sustain your awareness for weeks and months at a time. You no longer think yourself a unique snowflake, you're a steel-edged blade shaped like a snowflake and you're spinning at warp speed. You're the biggest fish in the pond... Now you have options."

They go on to describe the options as 1) continue evolving and improving, gaining physical and spiritual strength 2) keep that same level, maintaing physical but losing spiritual/inner strength, or 3) stagnate and lose both the fitness you fought for and the inner strength that you gained.

I submit that although the Gym Jones guys were talking about fitness, the same thing applies to any endeavour. If you have a goal, and it really means something, then the way to acheive it is via...suffering. Suffering brings acheivement. Suffering brings salvation.

What is your goal?


KID, MD said...

That last question is the critical one, don't you think? Without a goal, who can sustain that sort of suffering?

randivon said...

Thanks for this post... I really enjoyed reading it. It is interesting to bring the comparrison between running (which I used to think that one must be missing a few brain cells to enjoy... but then came to love as I "suffered" through working up to two miles) to other areas in life. I think it had the most application to the gospel in my mind. But I think it can also be compared to surviving motherhood... and doing it well. Thanks again for the post.

Grouch, MD said...

What would life be like without a goal? Is it more painful to be blown about by every whim of the winds, with a vague (but occasionally acute) sense of longing for something you can feel proud of? Or is it worse to be running so fast to the shining city on the hill that you occasionally fall down and leave a little skin on the trail?

Clearly I feel the former to be more painful. I can't imagine how disappointing it would be to look back on my life and see only fog.

Running a marathon, of course, is not the kind of concrete achievement that lasts the ages. Bending will and flesh over time to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal; ah, that's a tool what has many uses, both spiritual and physical.

A Hindu wise man said that when a friend dies, part of our soul dies with them and accompanies them on the journey to the next life. While doctrinally bogus, I feel that underneath there is this truth: our relationships form our legacy. Gifting my children with the knowledge of how to dream AND achieve great things would be satisfying.