This fall, I ran my first marathon.
Here is a picture of me looking about half as nervous as I felt. I was pretty much terrified. Even after training for months, this thing seemed impossible.
And I won’t tell you it was easy. I thought my legs were going to fall off. I swore up and down I’d never do such a meshugeneh thing again. Afterwards, I was so emotional that I broke down in tears and had no idea why.
Within a couple weeks, I was thinking about a half marathon and wondering how I could improve my training to do a full one again. In time.
I know, you’re wondering what this has to do with sewing, right? I’ll get to that.
Training takes patience
First, there is the short term patience, when you are in the act of training.
Training for a marathon usually involves one long run per week, and each week you increase your mileage until you can survive running about 20 miles.
If you’re a relatively slow or inexperienced runner (like me), that means you have to learn to be out running for almost 4 hours. Any runner will tell you that the hardest part of this is not dealing with what’s happening with your legs and feet, it’s dealing with what is happening between your ears. You have to learn new ways to deal with things like pain and boredom, and you have to learn to shut down the voice that says “this is not worth it.”
Haven’t we all had those moments where we want to throw away our project in anger, either because it failed or because it seems too hard? Where we say to ourselves, “why am I doing this when I can go to the mall and buy something ready made for less money?”
Yes, there is an easier way. But we keep trying because it is rewarding. It’s rewarding to learn, and it’s rewarding to get better at it. Personally, I think that’s the meaning of life: finding joy in the hard work.
Getting better takes patience
Unlike many other sports, getting good at running is excruciatingly slow. Someone who has been running 5 days a week for two or three years (that’s me) is still pretty much a novice (yep, definitely). Your body improves with each mile you log, but results are so slow after the first year or so that it can be hard to see.
The same is true for sewing. You see vast improvements when you first start, as you grasp the basics and learn to work the machine. After that, it is a matter of patience, practice, and pushing yourself to develop. You just have to log the hours, pure and simple.
There’s a big upside to this, which is that you never stop learning and improving. To me, this is hugely motivating. You can always take it a little farther and get a little better.
Overcoming setbacks takes patience
I was really excited about running some half marathons this year. Piece of cake, thought I. I was already running up to 10 miles easily, so training would be a breeze.
Then we went to Thailand, then I got sick, then I tried to jump right back in the deep end, then I hurt my leg, then I was out of commission for a month.
Every runner faces injuries. When this happens, you have to practice a new kind of discipline. This isn’t the discipline of working your hardest. Its the discipline of taking care of yourself, recognizing your limits, and having the patience to work your way back up very, very slowly.
Setbacks happen. It’s just how it is. You can accept that simple fact and treat yourself with patience and kindness, or you can fight against it and give up.
I guess running is just like any other creative act: if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. What do you think?