Embrace the Suck

After the last few weeks of intense training combined with incredibly long and stressful work hours, I decided to “Embrace the Suck” as my military friends and colleagues are so oft to say.  Changing my current job requirements and responsibilities is not in the realm of the possible at this time, nor am I willing to skimp out on my 100m training plan, so I jus have to embrace the situation – as terrible or as tiring as it might be – and march on.

Suck it up, Buttercup: You may wonder where I’m going with this idea of embracing the pain and suck of the past few weeks. After making a promise to “get out of my funk,” I found myself thinking of the terminology I have learned from my active duty counterparts to describe crazy or off-putting situations during my long runs this past weekend (Outside in beautiful weather…FINALLY!).  Why? Mainly due to the pain I feel on a hilly run from miles 20-30 on day one of the weekend, only to be followed by 20 more miles the next day as muscle soreness kicks in, loosens up, and then kicks in again. Never truly pleasant, and sometimes more uncomfortable than others.  However, the #1 reason phrases like FUBAR, Embrace the Suck, and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF) pop into my head comes from the crazy things that can happen, or you see, before, during, and/or after the run.  The situations where using military slang seemed most appropriate were exemplified on my last few long runs.  Finding myself super tire and not wanting to crawl out of bed for a 0500 wake up to run long mid-week?  “Suck it up, Buttercup!”is the phrase that echoes in my brain. Accidentally take my Vitamin B before a 30 mile run, only to find myself peeing my pants more times than I could count before being able to jump into the woods to go?  What more could I do but laugh and embrace the awkwardness, the suck, and the embarrassment of the situation?  Especially knowing I had a lot more miles to go before my run was finished and I could grab the change of clothes that was in my car, I just had to push on.  Thank goodness my pants were black that day!!!! Find myself frantically looking for a hidden place because I have an unexpected case of Runners Trots?  Embrace the Pain. After saying to myself a number of times “WTF” and “Embrace the Suck,” I began to think about why I love and use military, or warrior, language so much in my day-to-day.

Warrior Slang: Military terms and expressions, or warrior slang, serve two great purposes: practicality and identity – to shape and describe personal communication amongst the Band of Brothers.  For the men and women in the nation’s service, where combat is a risky, intense, and sweeping endeavor physically, emotionally and mentally, warrior slang is a tool to entertainingly, quickly, or grippingly, describe events the common citizen normally could not imagine.  Despite not always comprehending from where the basis of this slang emanates, the language of the warrior has a certain appeal because it comes from war and duty – concepts that are often difficult and uncomfortable to grasp – but nonetheless alluring.

General George S. Patton once said, “Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge.  It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is bare.  All men are afraid in battle.  The coward is the one who let his fear overcome his sense of duty.  Duty is the essence of manhood.” While Patton describes war as magnificent and base, President (and 5 Star General) Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, it’s futility, it’s stupidity.”  Quotes such as these evoke a response in the common citizen, and a desire to understand why and how men and women can do the extraordinary during combat.  As Patton and Eisenhower described, war displays humankind at its best and worst, strips the warfighter bare only to rebuild them, and the warfighters slang reflects the bitter, terrible, and inspiring all of it. 

As I ran, I thought of my father (a 5th Group Vietnam Vet, later a police officer) and his compatriots, as well as the SOF men and women of today, and how well they recognize that warrior slang highlights the disciplined bravado, earned camaraderie, sincerity and warmth, the irony, reality, vulgarity and earthiness of a warrior that walks along razor thing margins, and does not always come out on the other side.  The everyday citizen may not truly understand and share the true intent of these phrases; however, they conjure emotions in all of us, but most especially in athletes.  Athletes lay everything down to achieve seemingly unattainable feats during races or sporting events, bring the athlete to its base layer, breaks them down, only to rebuild them.  When in peak condition, or just having a good training day, we become hyper aware of ourselves and surrounding, have a clarity and focus that otherwise might be missing on a day-to-day basis.  Historic accounts from men in battle have often described a similar feeling…a hyper focus to get the job done.

We like these “war phrases” because they have more bravado, arrogance and implied suffering than the buzz words used around the office.  Once of my personal favorites is “Embrace the Suck,” which means the situation is horrendous, but deal with it.  Things suck, but you have to solve the problem yourself.  I also like the long form of this which is “Embrace the Pain, Love the Suck.” Hate running, so do a lot of people.  Your legs hurt and your heart rate is erratic during hill repeats?  Deal with it.  Embrace the pain and love the suck and agony. Or quite and let the minions and demons in your psyche keep you from reaching your goals.

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