Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Can A Run Teach You?

4:00 Sunday morning, I crawled out of bed, slipped on my running gear, headed down to the Virginia Beach oceanfront for the 26th Annual Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. Last year I was up before dawn to get in position to photograph the event. This year I was there to run. Why? A couple of reasons with the first being that everyone looked like they were having so much fun during last year's race. More importantly, though, I had to simply prove to myself that I could.

2007 Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon
Iso 200, 1/800 sec, f/8.0, 60mm

The original plan was to run the Shamrock back in March but a freak injury landed me in the ER just a few days prior. After recovering, I stuck hard to a training program that I enlisted on Active and reached the point where I was doing 9-mile runs comfortably once a week. Then one night after work in mid-June, I was out for a light run when on my third step, I felt my right knee pop and sharp, stabbing pain pierced just below the knee-cap. Even after taking a week off, the pain persisted and I dropped my training program down to doing alternate cross-training exercises instead of putting miles on the pavement. I mistakenly let myself believe that it would be a one-for-one trade-off; however, as we all know, you can't become competent at playing basketball if all you do is practice football.

A few weeks before the race, I picked up my running again and was shocked that instead of 9-milers, I was struggling to do 5s. With the poorer conditioning and my knee still bothering me, I considered skipping the race altogether. Then I did something unexpected... I began telling everyone I knew that I was running it knowing full well that if I didn't, I would look like a failure in more than just my eyes. This was a lesson in tough-love motivation but one that can be applied to everything in life whether it be quitting smoking, loosing weight, or forcing yourself to wake before the sunrises to be in position to catch the best light during the sunrise. It is easy to justify to yourself why you don't want to stick to a program or take a chance; however, when you invite others into your activity, your incentive not to let them down is a powerful motivator to keep you on track.

2007 Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon
Iso 200, 1/500 sec, f/8.0, 200mm

As 20,000 people took their positions on 19th St. for the start, the initial anxiety turned to an excited anticipation. Beach balls were being batted around between the starting corrals and the announcer had the wave rolling from front to back. With each group of 1000 runners that were released from the starting line, a roar of cheers would erupt from the remaining runners waiting their turn. The field was made up of professional athletes, dedicated runners, rec league softball players, and those who were probably doing the first athletic activity of their lives. People were dressed in the latest high-tech running gear and others were in Elvis costumes and blue wigs. The energy was overwhelming.

Lesson 2 of the day: The power of a collective group that shares a similar passion far exceeds the motivational factor that the individual can achieve own their own. How does this apply to photography you ask? It is easy for us to become our own worst critics or to get stuck in our comfort zone and not venturing out to find new subjects or looking at the same subjects in a new and different way. If you do only one thing today to make yourself a better photographer and to improve your creative thinking and skills, join an on-line photography forum. There are many good ones out there. My personal choice is Digital Grin, but take a look around and find one that seems to suit you best. Also instead of heading out into the field by yourself every week, invite along some others to join you. You'll find that by engaging others, your vision will expand and your portfolio will grow to incredible heights.

2007 Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon
Iso 200, 1/640 sec, f/8.0, 18mm

How did the race go you are wondering? With all of the initial energy and excitement, I took off the line and forgot my pace strategy. I felt great and didn't realize that I was running each mile 2.25 minutes faster than I planned for the first 3 miles. At mile 6, I was feeling the effects of the quick carbo depletion in which I unwittingly put myself and my pace had slowed considerable. At mile 9, I felt my legs give in. By the final mile, it felt like I was barely moving with each step; however, something amazing happened during the last quarter mile. With the finish line in sight, I mentally shutout the pain and exhaustion. When I crossed the line and heard my name announced, I was at full sprint and delirious with finishing my first. I missed my goal time by 20 minutes but I finished and realized my third lesson: The only thing that will ever stop us from reaching new heights in our life's pursuits is barriers that we build against ourselves and in striving for those heights, we must find rewards in the individual steps along the way. It doesn't matter if it is running a race or striving for that perfect image.

I know that the content of this article is primarily how the lessons I learned can be applied to photography. I also learned a great deal about myself as well as my running ability. I'm already looking forward to beginning my training program for the Shamrock Half Marathon. This time I will be prepared to crush my goal time.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

For what it's worth, I'm proud of you. I loved your recap of the event. :)