If anyone has ever seen the 1978 movie, Animal House, they will remember the scene with Kevin Bacon during Omega House fraternity initiations. He is told to “assume the position” where he is then hit with a wooden paddle. After every hit, Kevin Bacon’s character says “Thank you, Sir. May I have another?”
Working Through the Struggle. The last few months have been some of the toughest I have faced in a long time. During this time, I found myself using Kevin Bacon’s character’s phrase to get out the door despite less than stellar, or less than enjoyable, runs the days or week before throughout my struggle to find my training rhythm. The problem, interestingly enough, has not been in being in good enough shape to hit my training goals, but more about the ability to get my shoes laced up and my butt out the door. Not only has my motivation been at an all-time low, but so has my “give a f***” meter and my enjoyment. Where was the joy in running I usually felt? Why didn’t the feel of my legs powering me through miles and miles of terrain build up and energize me the way it usually did? Was it the current state of political affairs? The uncertainty in the world? The anger? Boredom? Was running no longer my “thing”? These questions were going through my mind daily, if not hourly.
I once read that “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…its about learning to dance in the rain,” and I can say that I’ve been pushing myself to go out into the storm to dance/run in the rain. I forced myself to “assume the position” to train by logging the miles, switching up my running playlists, listening to some books on tape, cross-training (to remind myself I love running), and running to and from work so I had a “purpose” for lacing up my Hokas and throwing on my Orange Mud pack; however, all I felt was wet, cold, and miserable instead of joyful for pushing forward despite the storm.
What does all this have to do with that particular phrase from Animal House? Why does this resonate with me while I’ve pushed and pushed to get back into my running groove? Why would I do something again and again while equating it with a phrase that highlighted fraternity hazing and initiations in a movie? One could assume that is because I’m not comparing my daily, or twice daily, runs with a type of self-torture, and many of my friends and associates over the years have been pretty sure I’m into self-inflicted pain by becoming an Ultra Runner so this thought makes sense to them. But the truth is that I’ve never, and hopefully never will, view my runs as torture. Running, no matter how tough or repetitive, has always been an outlet of freedom for me in a world that has become more and more constrained. The main reason my brain keeps focusing in on this quote is because it symbols perseverance despite the challenges.
Over the last 14 years, I’ve found my friends and co-workers using this phrase when faced with obstacles and setbacks. In times where a warrior is faced with terrible odds, and they know the hits will keep coming, saying “Sir, please may I have another” is a way to prepare for the next obstacle or battle. It is used to show strength, fortitude and an ability to move past pain and incredible odds. I feel connected to this quote because it has taught, and continues to teach, me to ask for tough problems and move forward despite the difficulties. Every run cannot be perfect or easy but they all take me a step or two forward in the direction I want to go. Now, after months of struggle and schizophrenic training weeks, I am finally hitting my stride (yes, run pun intended!), feeling good about it, and looking forward to the first couple of races of 2017. Thank you Animal House and Kevin Bacon for such a memorable scene and quote. Whether highly, or less than, motivated in the future, I will lace up, assume the position and keep asking for another run or two.