Kendrick’s DAMN., Self-Discipline & Why I’m (Not) A Runner but Ran 13 Miles

Zane Lowe (left) & Kendrick Lamar (right) interview

In a recent interview between Beat 1’s Zane Lowe and hip hop artist, Kendrick Lamar, Kendrick shares one word that describes his new album, DAMN. :

“Self-discipline.”

I’f you’ve listen to the album, you’ll experience that each track is titled by an experience in Kendrick’s life — DNA. BLOOD. FEAR. LOYALTY. GOD. LOVE. HUMBLE. (the list goes on). These songs aren’t just twisted words, verses and beats. You can feel each song take on a life of its own. When I heard his driving force was “self-discipline” I took a mental step back. I, too, had a personal relationship with that word that I’d like to share.

In the interview, Kendrick says that his love for hip-hop cannot be explained into words. I think I get what he’s saying. As you might already know at this point, I moved to Santiago, Chile a little more than a year ago. The feeling when I made the decision to move abroad cannot be described — it’s just a feeling.

Around the same time Kendrick started producing DAMN., I was on my way to South America. I took on a challenge of learning a new language, something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and it is still one of the biggest challenges I’m going through today. Someone told me I’d be fluent in 3 months. It’s been a year, and I am still learning the language.

Around month 8, when I felt particularly burnt out, I met someone that, at the time, I didn’t know would become one of my closest friends. We were having coffee, getting to know each other and for some reason, “running” came up in the conversation. “I’m just not a runner.” I said to her. “ I love playing soccer but when it comes to long distance running, forget it.”

I am not a runner was now a truth that I created with my own words.

It’s kind of hard to admit now, but right after I had that conversation with this friend, I went back home and had what you might call a panic attack but what I’m calling a cosmic oh f*ck moment. It came out of nowhere.

I’d explain the feeling like having the Chicago wind hit you so hard and you can’t breath. After taking what felt like hours to cry it all out in ball pose on the shower floor, I carefully stepped out, wrapped a towel around myself and sat on the couch in stillness. A shift then followed where I felt a sense of calm and decided to take the day for myself and get outside. A walk somehow turned into a 5 mile run and like being in the zone, I got back home not quit sure what just happened.

“Guess what I did yesterday…” I said on the phone to my lifelong friend, Jacqueline. Important side note — Jacqueline is the friend everyone has that can run 13 miles before applying for a job (you know who you are).

I told her the news and then asked her out of strong curiosity — “how do you keep going?”

“I never stop,” she said. I remained silent and then (compassionately and jokingly) murmured psycho. She continued —

“When I’m running, I try to never stop because if I do it’s harder to pick up and keep going. I try to keep my momentum and if I need to, I will slow down. But I try to always keep going.”

In this moment, I realized what I was lacking: self-discipline. I forgot that like any practice, learning a language wasn’t going to come with a few sprints to the finish line. I needed to find a way to train my brain that like running long distances, the process was the new priority.

So, I did the thing I told myself I’d never do. The person who claimed I am not a runner, signed up for the Santiago half marathon. I knew that if I was going to put myself through 13 miles of running, then I’d need to train for it, consistently. The weekly process of training got me into a runner’s mindset that taught me to never stop going. And even after I crossed the finish line on April 2nd, the momentum is still strong as I tackle bigger marathon, day to day.