"Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care."
I recently wrote that "Greatness is Elemental" and broke down training into five categories: Oxygen, Water, Food, Shelter, and Discipline. This post is the first of five that will explore the categories in more detail. Today's topic: Oxygen.
Here's what I wrote about the category Oxygen in that post:
"This category includes only one activity: running. Running is to being a great runner what oxygen is to being alive. And if that is too "SAT Testy" for you, here's the simple logic: Runners run. If you don't run, you can't be a great runner."
The Oxygen level is very simple. But then again, essential things almost always are.
It's all around us
Think about anyone who has achieved excellence in their chosen pursuit. It doesn't matter who it is: man or woman, black or white, poor or rich, student or athlete or actor or doctor or businessman or, yes, even porn star. How did they get there? Is there any common thread between them?
Fo shizzle. They love what they do. They are passionate about it. They are motivated. They care. All of these are just ways of saying, "They do it." With italics.
Excellent performers don't just show up. They show up ready to get to work. They want to be there. They want to do what they do better. (Hey, stop thinking about porn stars.) In running terms, they get out the door every morning excited about the workout they are about to do.
Think about the smartest kid in your school. Isn't it just sick how much he enjoys reading those books and getting the right answers? Think about the doctor who goes to school for years, goes into crazy debt, signs his life away to an HMO, and spends all his free time reading medical journals to keep up to date with the latest advancements. How can he still have that shine in his eyes when he helps another patient? And think about the lowly blogger who writes post after post even though nobody is reading or commenting on them, all in hopes of writing that one that will get "Dugg". Why do I...er...other bloggers...keep pouring themselves into it?
You can't live without it
It's the same reason why great runners become great. It's not about the greatness so much as it's about the run. You will never find a great student who isn't passionate about learning, a great doctor who isn't passionate about helping people, or a great blogger who isn't passionate about writing. And you will certainly never find a great runner who isn't passionate about running. Every morning, they get up and do it. And as soon as you stop caring, that's it.
For fun, let's break people down into a few categories. People who struggle with the Oxygen category often fall into one of four categories: Asthmatics, Hyperventilators, Suffocators, and Mudskippers.
Asthmatics: Asthmatics are people who never actually get to the point of fully caring. Something is holding them back. Maybe that's because they are afraid to let themselves care. Maybe they are afraid of failure. Maybe they are just really busy and thus distracted. You must know this type of person. Every group--team, class, office, cast--has at least one. They are there everyday, but it's not really their top priority. They tend to underachieve.
Real life running example: It's tough to come up with someone famous because these guys never become famous. Look around you, though. See anyone who's refusing to commit to his training or who is way too involved to stay focused on it? No? Then maybe it's you.
Hyperventilators: We all know these people. They are so full of passion, so motivated, that they actually care too much. They're trying so hard to get all the oxygen they can that they are actually getting too much. Every time you see them, you just want to tell them to "Relax," and "Take a deep breath." In most activities, these people are called nerds, except in computer programming, where they are just called by their names.
Real life running example: That guy who doesn't seem to have any interests other than running. That guy whose t-shirts all have an inside joke about running on them. And of course, that guy who shows up at a road race looking more like a walking product demo than a runner.
Suffocators: This is actually a very rare individual. You probably don't know this person. I don't know anyone in this category personally, though I occasionally hear of them. These are people who suddenly lose their oxygen source and never find it again. They went from great to not doing it at all. Actually, this is what happens to a lot of child stars, now that I think about it. With Suffocators, you can't help but wonder: what could they have done differently?
Real life running example: Herb Elliott. One of the greatest milers ever. He went undefeated at the mile and 1500m in his career and won the 1960 Olympic gold in a world record time. And then? That was it. He lost his motivation. It ended his career. He achieved all his goals and he just couldn't muster the passion to chase any new ones, to get himself out the door every morning. Game over. Just imagine: what if Elliott had lost that Olympic final?
Mudskippers: AKA Fish-people. They can breathe air, but really, that's not where they're meant to be. That is to say, their passion--their greatness--lies in other pursuits. Sometimes we see these people doing pretty well at an activity, and we wonder how great they could be if they dedicated themselves to it. But if they're a true mudskipper, they are just faking it. They know where they belong. Perhaps an example would help.
Real life running example: Lance Armstrong. 7-time Tour de France champion. Best cyclist of our generation. And now a marathon runner. Do his years of grueling cycling workouts help him run faster? Yeah, more than doing nothing. But the fact is, all the cycling in the world won't make you a great runner. At best it makes you like a good mudskipper: tough, driven, adaptable, and a prime subject for people making documentaries.
Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care. Greatness requires passion. If you're not passionate about running, try to figure out why that is. Do you fit the profile of an Asthmatic, a Suffocator, or a Mudskipper? If so, consider what you need to do to light that fire. Because getting yourself out the door everyday is the first element of great running.
(And if you're a Hyperventilator, "Relax. Take a deep breath." There. That's better.)