On Inconsistency

My wife used to be an amazing runner.

She made it to state at Mesa College, then went on to run at track and cross country at UCSD. When we were first dating, I would go watch her run at track meets. I would sit on the stone steps of the stadium, and wait for hours before she would run, bored out of my mind as she hung out with her team, and I would force a smile every time she looked up at me from the track where she spent what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, stretching, running short sprints, stretching again, jogging, then stretching again, then taking off her warm-up clothes and bouncing around a little bit, then stretching again. When the gun went off for her event, which was the 5000 Meters (which is something like 1,476 times around the track), and I watched intently as she suffered in the heat, running lap after lap, not in the front pack, somewhere in the middle, where the cheers weren't as loud, but I could see how focused and driven she was. In my eyes, she flew around that track, and at the finish, 17 or 18 minutes later, she put her hands on her knees and would look up to where I was sitting, cheering for her, and smile.

She talks a lot about those days, not in the glory days, we could have won state, "bet I can throw a football over them mountains" kind of way, but in a "it was so much fun to run hard every day, and to be fast" kind of way.

I get frustrated with her every time we run together, because I saw how fast she used to be, and how much potential she has. She talks about running consistently again, getting back into a routine, getting fast, not college days fast, but 45-minute 10K fast, and I always tell her the same thing, "if you trained with any kind of consistency, you could be so fast, so strong, but you never string together a long training cycle."

We went running on Valentine's Day together, and I was kind of being a dick (which is something I'm pretty consistent at), and as she was struggling to run up a trail, I was telling her to push harder, to not take so many walk breaks, and I was about to go into my "you need to train more consistently" speech, but I stopped.

It's hard for her to be consistent. We have three kids, so she took some long breaks from running during pregnancies, and also when the kids were little. We now have the luxury of a built-in babysitter, but now my wife has decided to become a nurse and is in school full-time, some days leaving at 4:30 AM for clinicals and coming home at 5:30 PM. She still makes dinner for the family most nights, and packs the kids' school lunches before she leaves in the morning. Even after all of this, she runs with some friends, occasionally, inconsistently waking up at 5:00 AM to get a run in before class. Sometimes, on her days off, she plans to run in the mornings, but instead she sleeps in, just too tired to wake up, and taking advantage of the sweet luxury of turning off the alarm and going back to sleep until the daylight wakes her.

My wife is an inconsistent runner, but no matter how many times she stops training, she has never completely given up running. So, I stopped myself on our run together, and told her that I was proud that she is still running, that she keeps coming back to it, and that she has never really quit. Life has gotten in the way, and she has taken some long breaks, but she always comes back to it, and that is what is important, not a 45 minute 10K or a 100-day running streak. Her inconsistency is amazing to me, because all this time she has been an inconsistent runner, she has been a consistent wife and mother, and I love her for it.

There are very few people that can run or work out consistently for years at a time. Injuries, kids, work, and just the stuff of life can get in the way. Part of being inconsistent is starting up again. Even when there are so many other things going on, obligations, fear of how much fitness we have lost, and how much it is going to hurt, we still get out there and take those first painful steps, and enjoy a few minutes of freedom. And, no matter how many times we stop, it feels good to start again.

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