Sunrise in summer
Precious and beautiful Lake
Start line in Duluth
I have been a runner for a while now, off and on since I was about 15 years old. In my mid 30’s I met my husband while I was starting to ramp up my distance, going from 10k runs to 10-milers and half marathons. One crazy year (2011) I opted to run a full marathon, and was relieved to check that off my bucket list. It certainly was a feeling of accomplishment. I started wondering what else I could do if I simply put together a training plan and followed it.
When we trained, sometimes friends would get together and run “hill repeats,” workouts in which we would run repeatedly up hills to build strength and stamina for those long races. We would “power up” those hills, maintaining the speed you would have kept up on the flat surface. They were intervals, not continuously run, and they also helped build confidence for those times in a race when a hill would loom ahead.
These days I am not so interested in improving my running times, but rather just staying fit and enjoying the experience. When I am training, I take walk breaks, particularly on the hills, rather than “powering up” and maintaining the pace. I find that slowing a bit gives me time to take in the view, and to ensure that I’m maintaining good form.
On my run yesterday I started thinking that this is a metaphor for life. We have a challenge (hill) ahead, and some of us want to keep running, to keep making relentless forward progress. But I have gotten increasingly comfortable with walking up that hill, taking in the beauty of the view, appreciating the journey in a new way.
There is no rush. Finishing faster does not necessarily mean better. At some point, on the other side of that hill, likely there will be a downhill angle, where the momentum will allow us to run back down with less effort. By not getting stuck in one speed, we allow our bodies the flexibility to adjust to circumstances. In life too, we so often want to keep going at a fast clip. And sometimes slowing down helps us know when we want to turn off to explore a different area, or perhaps even change direction.
We may not have realized there is a path that was there all along, only we never saw it before. Suddenly the old route is new again. We see it in a new light. We arrive at our destination with a renewed perspective.
This Sunday I got an itch to go for a run. It was at a time when I noticed myself going to the cupboard, believing I wanted to eat something.
In reality, I was not hungry. I was avoiding the task of writing up my ice breaker speech for my Toastmasters meeting scheduled for this Tuesday. Since I have developed a mindfulness practice when it comes to eating (and practicing for 3+ years) I realize this usually means one of a few things:
On that day, I felt a bit unfocused – I was trying to figure out how to begin the speech, and I wanted to start with a story about my Grandmother. Then I started wondering how much I want to reveal about myself.
In reality, I want to communicate a bit about myself that helps the group connect with me. And because I’m human, I want them to like me. Sheesh, that’s a bit hard to admit. I like to say that I’m losing my ability to care about what other people think. On an ideal day, that’s probably true.
But because human beings are wired for belonging (similar to the way we are wired for story), I had to take some deep breaths and admit to myself that it is where those uncomfortable feelings originated. The beautiful and true fact is that we are not control over whether others like us. Even if we want to control that, the emotions they have are largely based on the thoughts and beliefs in their own heads.
So, remembering that, and realizing I’d been stationary all morning, and that fresh air and sunshine always seem to clarify my thinking, I started looking for my running shoes. Despite my efforts, and a fairly clean and de-cluttered home, they were nowhere to be found. I texted my husband to ask if he had seen them. Nope. He recommended I borrow his shoes, and maybe we could shop for new shoes next week.
I had put a lot of miles on those shoes, and my knees had been feeling that I might need a new pair. But I’ve been trying to be frugal these days, until my income is a bit more predictable (freelancers of the world, rejoice!). Then I realized that the clarity, focus and stress-relief I get from running (or yoga or dancing) are not optional. They are part of the mental health regimen that has kept me sane for decades.
Of course, they are not the only thing that has helped. Therapy, good dietary choices (more healthy fat – lovely!) and good sleep hygiene also receive high marks for getting me through challenging times. But getting out for some fresh air, a walk or run and sunshine? Priceless.
I used to say that a good pair of running shoes kept me from taking negative feelings out on others. They still help, for sure. As long as I am not running a “punishing” number of miles as I did that time I trained for a marathon (one and done), it is a lovely stress reliever.
Now, let’s see if I can get that speech written or at least outlined. To hold myself accountable, I will need to report back in my next blog on Thursday…