Eye Of The Tiger

While out on the first run of my brick training last weekend, I was starting to experience the mental low that’s far too typical to my running.

It generally looks a little like this: “I’m not feeling it today. My pace is slow. My hips are tight. My foot hurts. That’s a big hill ahead. OMG, I still have to bike 30k and run another 5. Whoa, that dude just looks like running is so easy. Why can’t I feel that? Why do I do this stupid sport in the first place? Who am I kidding?”

As I began to fully wallow in self pity – admittedly a self-limiting feature – I noticed a truck entering the intersection that I was about to cross. It was the kind of truck that usually gives me pause to be cautious. Older Ford F150 with a standard cab. Driver was a guy in a ball cap. Not a fitted cap. Truck smelled like cigarette smoke from the cab and leaded fuel from the loud tailpipe. Lots of rust on the front wheel-wells. All the usual signs that tell me as a cyclist or runner to assume the driver won’t be accommodating a need for space. [If I’ve just described you and your truck, and you’re offended, I’m sorry. For the record, a soccer mom driving a Jeep Liberty or Toyota Highlander is actually worse at this, from my experience.]

So generalisations aside, just as I pulled up to let the truck jump in front of me at the crosswalk without killing me or shattering my femur, the driver shocked me by backing up. Yes, srsly. He cleared the intersection to let me go in front of him. And not to line me up to better run me down.

Recovering from my shock, I gave him a surprised face, a friendly thank you wave and resumed my previous pace, back to mentally willing my watch to buzz and tell me I’d completed another damn kilometre.

Some 500 metres later, the truck passed me on the street, heading the same direction as me along the busy main artery. Blaring from his windows, I kid you not, was “Eye of The Tiger”. Not the Katy Perry appropriation in “Roar” . This was the classic Survivor track that guided all of us 70’s babies through sports of any kind during the 80’s.

Little did this man know that he was giving me a double boost that day. By clearing the crosswalk to let me pass in front of him, he showed me that some motorists are capable of showing courtesy to runners. But he was also playing one track (predictable, yes!) off my “Fast Feet” playlist, which features songs that will either inspire faster cadence through cheesy athletic analogies/references or have a BPM matching the ideal running cadence.

I generally don’t run with any music. I find futzing with the earbuds and the attached iDevice too annoying, and since you can’t compete with these in a Triathlon Ontario sanctioned event, there’s really no point to me getting hooked on the music for my runs. Some sadistic-gosh-I-should-be-mentally-stronger part of me also relishes being alone with my thoughts – as negative as they can be – through my runs. So generally I’ll listen to a track or two from this playlist on the way to a race, or before a run or bike session, to get the songs running through my head to guide my feet.

Hearing a track mid-run, out there in the universe for all to hear, right when the battle to overcome negative thoughts was at a key point? Super bonus.

Right then and there I smiled, erasing the ugly grimace previously on my face. And my feet picked up. I took off like a shot to finish that run. That song was still echoing in my head over an hour later when I transitioned back off my bike to the final run.

“Risin’ up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance
Now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive”

Sometimes it’s the simplest, most random things that guide us to finish. But we have to take it where it comes.

Nice act by motorist? Check. Cheesy-uplifting-rock-anthem-of-my-athletic-youth? Double check.

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