Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Born to Run

Late in the 2010-2011 academic year, one student passed along to me a copy of the book Born to Run.  As someone who, by that time, had been hanging around with distance runners consistently for almost a year, I had, of course, heard about the barefoot (or at least minimalist shoe) running movement by that time.  This is the book that really brought the story to life.

I started the book almost as soon as I got it and then set it aside for a while.  On this vacation, what did I bring with me?  Two Wall Street Journal weekend editions, the Baltimore Sun that was delivered to our house on the morning the cruise began, and several books, one of which is Born to Run.  I turned to the book yesterday after finishing off the newspapers.

Most cruises seem to be organized in a way that if you attend a regular dinner each night you are seated at a table with the same people.  We met Stephanie (sp?) and Alyssa (sp?) on Monday evening, sat across from them playing Scattergories yesterday, and then had a lovely conversation with them at dinner last night.  When I mentioned getting up at 5 to run at 6 in the gym one of them commented that that did not sound like much of a vacation.

And yet, to me, it did.  Being able to run with little time pressure for pretty much as long as I want at whatever pace I want (now that I am not training for any big race other than trying to set a half marathon PR in 10 days).  That is vacation.  Just doing what I want with no strings attached.  And part of that is running.

I didn’t make the comment directly back, but I thought about it as I read through about half of Born to Run yesterday.  There were multiple references to people smiling when the presumably should be cringing or gritting their teeth during a run.  There are statements about the serenity of running itself.  There are multiple quotes I’d like to comment on.  I’ll comment on one this morning, from page 114 of the book, “When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.” 

Did I capture that this morning when I went to run?  I think so.  I was still on a treadmill and actually had no sense of which direction the boat was going as it approached Port Canaveral.  I had several hiccups during the run as the treadmill seemed set to go to cool down mode after 30 minutes of exercise so as I ran 8.3 miles I had to restart twice.  I listened to my body enough that instead of pushing for a full 10, the heat in the gym and the slight tilt of the boat during much of the run told me to stop at 8.3 and be happy.

And, happy I was.  I don’t know how many people around me could tell that.  Others on the machines really looked like they were ‘putting in time.’  That is fine.  I just tried to take it all in stride, and feel good.  When I didn’t feel so good anymore, I knew it was time to be done. 

I came back to my room, pulled out two diet Mountain Dews, took them to the balcony, and drank them down while enjoying the cool morning air as the ship had docked at Port Canaveral.  I was at ease after a nice workout.

As I have now qualified to apply for Boston and now begin the phase of ‘what next?’ I don’t plan on moving to ultramarathon running.  I do plan on finding ways to enjoy what I am doing even more.  Running for joy has been a theme I have discussed off and on in this blog.  The fact that the ultramarathon runners who run the fastest also seem to run for joy gives me hope that I will continue to find meaning in what I am doing and that I really have only just begun to find meaning. 

The physical aspects of running.  The self-awareness aspects of running.  The social aspects of running.  The giving aspects of running.  All are what it is about.

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