Most of the time, when I write about running, it is just incidentally or only partly actually about running.That is no different here. Undoubtedly, when spending hours running outside, my mind occasionally will wander and I do at times think: what does it mean to keep doing this. The keeping going, both to finish that run, but also to do it again the next day and the following week — and ideally to feel good about it, too. What to make of it.
Here are a few thoughts on that.
Merriam-Webster defines the noun endurance like this:
1: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity
especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity
a marathon runner’s endurance
2: the act or an instance of enduring or suffering
endurance of many hardships
the endurance of the play’s importance
Something or someone (perhaps you) has to do the enduring, treat it like something to actively do. Merriam-Webster defines the verb endure like this:
1: to continue in the same state : last entry 1
the style endured for centuries
2: to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding
though it is difficult, we must endure
1: to undergo especially without giving in : suffer
endured great pain
2: to regard with acceptance or tolerance
could not endure noisy children
The way I think about it? To endure is to keep going, over time, even in the face of difficulties or hardship. The better your endurance, the better your odds to continue.
Some activities make the endurance aspects more obvious. I enjoy and appreciate running as an endurance sport. There is something that speaks to me at a mental and physical level about the experiencing of a seemingly simple activity that you can engage in for several hours at a time, if you choose to. Running, in streets or on trails, regardless of the time of day, rain or shine. Simple. The aspects that make it an endurance event? Both the distance (how many miles at a time) as well as the duration (hours, on a great day).
Perhaps not so immediately obvious, but very important, as I think about it: It is not just about that one run. Rather it is about the knowledge and intention and the actual realization of repeating that activity again and again and again. When you do this run, you immerse yourself in it, but you necessarily also care about the next ones. You do not intend to be done after one event; there is more to come.
Your endurance sport is not just an enjoyable activity, but also a testing ground. Every session done is time spent in your personal lab. You learn to position yourself and evolve your habits and practices to improve your odds — deliberately as well as a natural part of engaging with the sport – of continuing or ending on your own terms.
You practice not quitting, study what it is like to keep going.
It is meaningful context to examine endurance. But I think it is actually much bigger than that.
Endurance is at work in many places, all around us. Mountains, forests and seas. Our planet. From the human race and our biggest longest-running ambitions to some of our oldest and most vexing problems. The animal kingdom. Camels, crocodiles, the common cockroach and sled dogs. The list goes on.
We can see it in people living their lives, obviously, too. It is not just, when they engage in what we call endurance sports. Chipping away at a difficult problem, week after week, perhaps for years. Sticking to the decades-long activity of parenting their children. Navigating the ups and downs of personal relationships. Facing difficult situations, over and over, persevering for years. Aging gracefully. Surviving.
To observe life over time means to see endurance (continuing, succeeding or failing) at work.
Endurance practitioners are all around us. You can see enduring play out, when you look for it. We can learn from it. And perhaps the lens of endurance provides for useful perspective, when we think about getting from here to there, trying again or simply keeping on going.