The surest route to running satisfaction may be the path of least resistance.
My grandfather had many favorite expressions – nearly all of which are unfit for publication. But the one he used often as a means of defusing disappointment over some failure was: “When one door closes, another door opens.”
In the years since his death, I’ve often changed this expression to reflect my own uniquely pessimistic outlook: “When one door closes, another door closes.” There were times, I assure you, when that seemed to be the case.
More often than not, though, my grandfather was right. In most cases, when an opportunity is missed, another will come along soon to replace it. In my life I’ve lost one job hunt only to be offered a better job soon after. In fact, if I had gotten the job I thought I really wanted, I wouldn’t be writing this column.
Runners, though, don’t always seem to be skilled at going through those open doors. Maybe it’s just our nature or the nature of those who are drawn to the sport, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, however, is that it seems like many of us, as runners, spend our entire running lives trying to break through closed doors.
My first closed door was trying to run sub-30 minutes in a 5-K. Considering that it had taken about 48 minutes to complete my first 5-K, the 30-minute door wasn’t just shut, it was locked, barred, and bolted. But, like many, I lined up for 5-K after 5-K and ran with everything I had – right into the closed door.
All around me people were running into closed doors. Some doors were closed at 24 minutes, some at 15 minutes. But the doors all looked pretty much the same. And those of us who ran smack into our doors looked pretty much the same, too, as we staggered across the finish line.
Eventually, I did get through the 30-minute 5-K door. But rather than being content, I saw that there was a 25-minute door that was closed. I also ran into the 60-minute 10-K door, the two-hour-half-marathon door, and the four-hour-marathon door. Some of these doors opened eventually. Some did not.
These days, though, I find myself wanting nothing more than to go through the door that’s wide open. Why run a marathon in five hours when you could run it in six? I understand that this sounds like blasphemy to the sport’s hardliners, but for me being in a race is like going to a theme park. I want to be the first through the turnstile, and I want to stay until they throw me out.
That’s not to say that it isn’t important to have goals. Striving to find our limits and potential keeps life and running interesting. But not always. Sometimes, it’s better to take what the day gives us.
We may very much want to run a 30-minute 5-K, but the open door that day might be 33 minutes. What’s important to know is that you have a choice. You can run full speed into a door that is closed or you can pull back just a little and go through the open door.
There are doors that are open to us every day. And, in the end, you may find that by following the path that is best for you, there’s actually a third variation on my grandfather’s wisdom: “When one door opens, another door opens.”
Waddle on, friends.