Behold The Marathon Photo.
This is The Marathon Photo. The one that goes on the wall. The only marathon photo to go on the wall. Is it my fastest marathon? No. Is it my slowest? No. Was it my funnest? No.
Now why would this photo go on the wall and not the photo from my fastest marathon? (Besides the fact that it's the only one in which I'm not crying, pulling an ugly face or peeing myself?)
Because it's a reminder. A reminder that 12 years ago, when I started the running of many miles, I ooooh'd and awe'd over how awesome it would be to finish a marathon in as little as 3 hours 15 minutes. I had daydreams, nightdreams, wetdreams, hoping that one day - after much hard work, lost toenails and blisters - I'd hit my ultimate goal of 3 hours 15 minutes.
I hit that 3:15 goal in 2007.
Setting a goal and making that goal generally makes one happy. Ecstatic. Over-the-top-giddy. And it does actually make one happy, ecstatic and over-the-top giddy. However, goal achievement tends to make us hungry. Hungry for more. In this case I was hungry for faster.
I wanted to run faster.
The next year, I trained harder and smarter. All the while, reminding myself that 3:15 is my lifetime goal. Anything faster than 3:15 is gravy - don't go mental over it. That next year, I kicked the pants out of my 3:15 lifetime goal (in ferocious weather, up hill both ways, carrying hot potatoes to keep my hands warm and feed the poor at the finish.)
Okay, so maybe I didn't kick the pants off of my lifetime goal but I sure as heck knocked the socks off of it.
Now. Knocking the socks off a lifetime goal - making gravy - generally makes one happy. Ecstatic. Over-the-top-giddy. Once again however, exceeding my lifetime goal made me hungry for more.
I wanted to run faster.
This year, I trained harder and smarter. All the while, reminding myself that 3:15 is my lifetime goal. Anything faster than 3:15 is gravy. Rabid darling, you've hit that 3:15 and made gravy - don't go mental over it.
Do you see the pattern? Of perpetual goal setting? To produce happiness?
Here's what I've discovered: Goal setting is a delicate balance. Setting and achieving goals makes us better people. The hunger to do better - to be better - is what motivates us to set goals and work towards meeting those goals. The hunger for better - the hunger for gravy - is what makes us better people.
There is, however, a caveat in this hungry-gravy-makin'-goal-setting perpetual process. In order for us to maintain perpetual happiness, we must have the ability to step back, review our accomplishments and be content. On many occasions, we must be okay without the gravy.
So what happens if we need gravy all of time? What happens if we must constantly outdo ourselves over and over and over to be okay? We end up in a vicious cycle of perpetual unhappiness. We drown ourselves in frustration while looking for gravy.
Goals = Perpetual (Un)Happiness
Here I sit now, two days before my 13th marathon. I have kinked my back (and not in a good kinky kind of way). I'm looking back at the 70 mile weeks. I'm counting the Saturday mornings surrendered to 20+ milers. I'm reliving the agony of 4:45am - almost every day. I'm reviewing the speedwork sessions - the ones in which wheezing was an always and barfing was an almost. And you know what I've decided?
I don't even like gravy.