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Month: January 2010

Free your mind, and your feet will follow.

Free your mind, and your feet will follow.

(Thanks to Runners’ World Daily Kick in the Butt email for this quote from Kevin Nelson, from The Runner’s Book of Daily Inspiration). ¬†I get these emails every day from Runners’ World, and I find them incredibly inspiring and motivating. Every once in a while, I read a quote like this one that just gives me an “a-ha!” moment… that then compels me to ruminate. ūüôā

You know I’ve extolled running’s virtues of being so simple and so pure — that it’s not a sport or activity that its participants must absolutely “muck up” (IMHO) with tons of gear and gadgets in order to enjoy — and this quote captures this sentiment nicely. ¬†Before some people begin running, they are filled with fear. ¬†What if I can’t keep up? ¬†What if I can’t run more than three steps? ¬†What if I fail miserably and embarrass myself? They over-think the sport and let their head dictate (read: impede) their progress. ¬†We’ve all been there before. ¬†I can’t run today because X. ¬†I wanted to run today, but Y got in the way. ¬†If I run now, I won’t be able to do Z. ¬†Why complicate a thing where, quite literally, all you must do is place one foot in front of the other to move forward (and thus, progress)?

Maybe this is especially resonating with me this morning after doing my first set of Yasso 800s in several months at last night’s FF speedwork session. ¬†I’ve already remarked that the FF group is a speedy bunch, and that I’m often in the caboose group, so I had a little trepidation going into this workout — much like the same questions I listed above. ¬†I learned last night that the bulk of the group is shooting for 3:10/3:20 marathon. ¬†A few want a 3:30, and the rest of us “slow” folks aspire to do a 3:40 again.

The plan was to run from the store to St. Joe’s (around the 4.0 mile marker), do a Yasso 800 to the 3.5 mile marker, active recovery for 2 minutes, do another Yasso 800 from the 3.5 mile marker to the second Recreation Dr. sign, active recovery for 2 minutes, and then repeat back to the 4.0 mile marker. ¬†All told, we were to do a warm-up, 4 Yassos with 2 minutes active recovery between, and a cool-down.

I was nervous about running with the 3:40 ladies but thought that now is as good a time as any to get back into the ‘speed’ of things. ¬†(Mind you, we also were running in some slight snow flurries and a little bit of wind!). ¬†I tried not to think about the activity at hand — thus, freeing my mind — and let my feet and my body and my perceived effort guide me along. ¬†It was fun to run in a pack and to use each other’s bodies, our collective sounds, the scenery, everything around us as the backdrop to our efforts. ¬†There really seems to be something to be said about running in a group like we did last night (a next experience for me). ¬†And the end result, you ask? ¬†All our 800s were remarkably sub-3:40. ¬†In fact, we hit something along the lines of 3:34, 3:33, 3:30, 3:35/6 — not quite sure (in that order! — yes, our penultimate one was fastest! ¬†very cool!). ¬†My intermittent recoveries weren’t quite as long as they were supposed to be, resembling times closer to 1:45/50s, but it was ok. ¬†I was going with it. ¬†ūüôā ¬†And I’m mighty glad I did.

The takeaway — next time you feel a bit of fear, or hesitation, or whatever, when you’re about to embark on a new adventure (running-related or not), free your mind. ¬†The rest — your feet, your confidence, whatever it is that needs to come — will. ¬†¬† Guaranteed.

Running and reconciliation

Running and reconciliation

Haiti has been on my mind these past few weeks — and not just anytime I watch the news. ¬†I think about Haiti and Haitians when I’m running because I wonder how the country and its citizens — many of whom have had their lives forever changed as a result of the earthquake — are making sense of it all. ¬†Where do you begin when you lose everything? ¬†How do you stay sane and not go, or be, mad at every_one or every_thing? ¬† Where does the reconciliation process start? ¬†And how will the surviving Haitians ever be able to answer the question, “why was I saved?,” from the earthquake’s force?

It’s fitting that I think about this on my own runs because it’s there that I often find peace– not only with the nearly-meaningless, meager happenings and discomforts of my own life but also with the world’s misgivings in general. ¬†One of my favorite, and most influential, teachers in college was ¬†a woman named Victoria whom I had for two different freshman writing classes and my GLBT lit class. ¬†She was dynamic, had a fiery personality, and boy, was she impassioned about social justice. ¬†She once said, “If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.” ¬†And it is so true. ¬†Local, national, or international headlines, on a daily (if not hourly) basis scream of the glaring inadequacies rampant in our world, and for someone to be able to go about her day, void of any frustration or anger or whatever, would seem to imply that she’s just not aware — or just not paying attention.

Of course, mental health professionals will probably say that harboring such intense feelings of anger, desperation, and the like would wear down a gal, and consequently, finding an avenue for relief and escape would prove to be essential for maintaining a sense of balance and perspective. ¬†This is where running can fit in. ¬†I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, that part of running’s beauty is its simplicity. ¬†You put one foot in front of the other, and you progress. ¬†Much like the grieving or “making sense of the world” process: you take it one step at a time.

When I run, I think about things that I read in the news–like Haiti, like Kenya’s corruption problems–and things that hit more close to home, like my mom’s stroke or why two of my friend’s three kids died at such a young age (and not even a year ago, that same friend lost her long-time partner to a sudden cardiac emergency). ¬†The unfairness aspect reigns supreme in all of these instances, and the subsequent rage and frustration we (specifically, I) can feel can be blinding and repulsive. ¬†Rather than commiserating with myself in these feelings, I try to put their energy to a productive use — through running — and it is in this process that I can simply come to terms with life’s (mis)givings. ¬†I know that que ser√°, ser√°, but I think I need to first have the mileage behind that sentiment before I feel fully at peace with lo que pas√≥.

My heart (and obviously, my ruminating mind) goes out to Haitians both here and there.  I cannot begin to imagine the reconciliation processes they all will endure.  My only hope is that they can all find a positive outlet, like running, to help make sense of it all.