This quickly garnered a lot of thoughtful, insightful answers. Many touched on self-understanding, suggesting that if you understand why you are doing something, this can guide you in how committed (or balanced, or extreme) you are in doing it. Good stuff to think about, especially as the trail racing season begins to wind down and we head into the natural time of year for laying plans and preparing.
Here is my answer to the question:
We lived on Lake Minnetonka until I was 11 years old, and my parents owned a lovely old wooden Chris-Craft cabin cruiser. It was a lot of work for Dad to maintain (he says maintenance on a wooden boat is proportional to the length of the boat, squared), but he loved to take us out for endless summer evening cruises on the lake. I loved that smell of lake water and diesel fuel, and the cold-then-warm feeling of water splashing on your bare legs.
|This isn't it, but similar. From www.yachtforums.com|
I love this story because in may parts of life, there's always someone with a bigger boat. It's certainly true in running. You can always find someone who gets up earlier, runs more miles, trains in gnarlier conditions, does crazier stuff during a race. And especially in the era of ubiquitous social media, it's easy to find extremes on blogs, DailyRun, Strava, Facebook and Twitter. As an aside, it's interesting how many ultramarathoners bring to the sport a personal history of substance abuse and addiction. It seems that for many, running is therapy, medicine... maybe a substitute for a more destructive habit.
You can always go further down the rabbit hole, and chances are, someone already has gone there before you. At different seasons of your life, different degrees of balance (and imabalance) are right. You're healthy, single, free time available and want to train insane? Very different from ten years later, when you might be married, have kids, a start-up business and a nagging injury. Think about your season of life and your commitments. Think about how you WANT to balance things. Acknowledge that someone will have a bigger boat. Then go out and enjoy a long sunrise cruise in your own boat.