Yesterday, a family friend asked me  about building endurance given her quest to run five miles. Given that she prefaced her remarks by referencing my track and field history, this became my starting point for addressing her question. I was around 8-years-old when I first joined a track team so I explained that my endurance resulted from continuous training. In order to build endurance, I suggested that commitment and dedication to practicing consistently were at least two requirements. My friend went on to tell me how she had walked five miles and now wants to run the distance. I told her that walking before running is a reasonable place to start, but going from walking five miles to running the distance will be littered with frustrations without a sensible strategy. To that end, I told her that if she wants to eventually run five miles, she should set her sights on running one mile first. It makes sense that a novice to the sport would set a five mile goal given that road races are commonly set at this distance, but there’s even a step before this. The standard distance for cross-country races is 3.1 miles. Recognizing these levels prompted me to I ask my friend a few questions: What timeline are you working on? Is there a road race you’re aiming to participate in? Can you combine walking and running until you can run the entire mile? In response, she told me that what she really wants to do is “to go for a jog.”

I guess when you live in the United States your entire life and are inundated with the uncontested assumption that dreaming is a civil right, it then makes sense to just wake up one morning and decide that whatever you say you want to exist should simply happen. Manifest. Be. My friend was dumbfounded by her inability to run five miles given that “that’s just what [she wanted] to do.” Being asked to present a plan for realizing this goal, led to her own discovery that she just wanted “to go for a jog.” If you have an end in mind, like running five miles, and you don’t have a reasonable plan for bringing this about, you’re still just running around aimlessly; running, as in my friends case, lacks purpose in such a scenario.

I’m happy it didn’t take very long in our discussion before my friend made her goals explicit because I didn’t have to waste too much time taking her seriously. Taking someone seriously takes time! If I had invested this time, I would have asked questions about speed; about improving; about races beyond 5k. As it stands, I don’t understand why my friend just can’t go for a jog if that’s what she wants to do. What’s stopping her? If it doesn’t matter how fast she goes or if she stops and walks during the five mile course, it’s not clear to me why she can’t just run or walk, fast or slow, today or tomorrow…what difference does it make? There are no requirements for one’s hobbies. If you want to jog five miles, jog five miles…good grief.