It’s not about any single day, but about the consistency in showing up for many single days — even when nobody is watching.
I think sometimes about the underground story of the amateur runner. The one who isn’t good enough to have great notoriety or relevance, sponsorship or importance, but who is doing more than the average hobby runner. They are out there putting in far more miles than the one who shows up at the gym and casually does 3k on the treadmill, or the one who does 5k around the neighbourhood three times per week. It’s not that one is better or worthier than the other, but the former takes way more work: physical labour and output, mental gymnastics and commitment, time-arranged planning and preparation.
Also, most people have no idea. The humble silent grinder is the one who puts in the work and still shows up for every other part of their life. They’re the person who will run a half marathon in the middle of the week as a long run and have done a 15km workout before it even hits 7am. They’re the person who chooses long runs over long nights spent socializing, and who rocks up on Monday morning after the marathon — hobbling — but still there. “What happened?” one co-worker asks, in response to their compromised gait. “Oh nothing,” you reply, “I just ran a sub 3-hour marathon yesterday, so just a little sore.”
Most of the time, the humble silent grinder holds within them this arsenal of wisdom and knowledge. It’s a cavern of lessons, acquired from years of experience, built up from hours of application and cultivated through trial and error, restart, and reset.
“Get tough,” the inner voice chimes, “keep grinding.”
On any single day, it may indeed be a monotonous grind. One where the alarm seems to go off too early, the rain outside is coming down too heavy and the mental fatigue sinks in deep. But there is a glimmer. Each night, with the prospect of running fast paces or covering big distances in the morning, there is a bit of excitement. “What can I get out of myself? Where are the edges of my potential?” I only need to know it myself. Silence and action speak volumes more than speaking of actions.
Sometimes this is all in pursuit of something greater, a looming far off dream of a certain time or a certain qualification. The next level of the Boston Marathon qualification dream. But sometimes it is not actually about any one thing, but about the journey and the cumulative total of many things. It’s about this idea that getting better takes practice and hundreds of hours: put in the time. It’s the idea that if you aren’t out there doing it and trying, you definitely won’t get better: keep trying. It’s the process of doing something hard, that is uncomfortable and may not end up turning into anything at all: keep showing up. It’s this relentless pursuit of possibility under the veil of steadfast commitment and belief. “If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?”
I often think that to the outside world, it looks like a ludicrous, futile fight; a persistent push for something that may never materialize at worst, and at best, leads to minimal reward. And in many ways, that’s all true. But also, it yields the best rewards you could ever have in your life, tutelage in the hardest lessons you could ever learn and a reliance on yourself — all you, just you — that you could never find in anything else. Keep grinding.