12 03 2009

I’m 9 days away from my first full marathon.  I’ve moved into my taper and it’s given me lots of time to begin a reflection of what the last 17 weeks have been like for me.  What a great experience, and although I’m sure the experience of running and finishing the Shamrock Marathon will be amazing, I can’t discount what I’ve learned about myself through the training.

For me, maybe the most eye-opening bonus of distance running is the ability to think more clearly than I ever recall thinking.  The clarity I have during and after a long run is so refreshing and often I look forward to that experience as much or more than the physical act of running.


Haruki Murakami really describes what goes on in a runners mind (at least from my experience) in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  He talks about the idea that he runs in a void, or rather that he runs to acquire a void.  Though occasionally thoughts sip into this void, they are more like clouds in the sky.  The sky remains the same, but the clouds come and go, leaving only the sky behind.  I really like that description and it works for me to, doing a good job of describing where I go when I run.  If that alone is what I have gained through this journey, it will have been worth it.

About 2/3 of the way through my training, I developed what would later be diagnosed as a calf tear.  About half way through a 6-mile run, I started experiencing intense pain in my left calf.  Knowing I couldn’t simply wait it out, I contacted the experts at Balanced Physical Therapy.  Chad Flickinger was assigned as my therapist and without his great direction and advice I could not have recovered so quickly or changed and improved my running form to help prevent future injuries.  Shortly after that, I contacted Sage Rountree and began attending her Yoga for Athletes Class at Carrboro Yoga Company in hopes of improving my running as well as finding more new places inside my spirit to explore.  I have really enjoyed her teaching and Yoga has been an interesting adventure so far, so we’ll see.  All along, one of my most treasured guides along the way, Heather Wuthrich, has helped me to see the trail more clearly, and understand why some of the obstacles have been there.  So another important thing that I have learned is that although I am strong enough to accomplish much through the spirit that I am, part of the journey is discovering what others have to teach me and finding the courage to ask for help.

All along the way, I have had a partner with me.  Anyone who has taken a similar journey knows what a time commitment it can be.  There are also commitments to diet, scheduling and finances.  In most situations, we all have people who share our lives and when I embarked on this adventure, that was true for me.  It still is, and Cindy has been the perfect partner, supporter, coach, counselor and friend.  She has never waivered or done anything but support and love me, and seeing that the love she had for me was an important part of the whole journey has been an incredibly important learning experience.

There have been other things I have learned along the way.  Patience.  Perspective.  How to find the Stillness inside me.  But perhaps, no clearly, the most profound thing I have discovered, is a new understanding of thankfulness.  For the ability to run.  For the opportunity to do what I have grown to love.  For the sights I have seen as my feet have moved me along the road.  For the other spirits I’ve met and continue to meet along this journey.  For the clarity that has always been there, but that I can now have.  For moving closer to a clear picture of who I am.  For the journey itself.

The race is 9 days away, and it should be fun.  And I hope to report back on it then.

the art of running in the snow

21 01 2009
Running in the Snow

don't let it stop you

yesterday we got about 3 inches of snow here. it’s not much, compared to what we got in PA.  it was a normal training day, so it gave me the chance to check something off my list:  go for a run in the snow.  let me say this : its obvious where the term a “blanket of snow” came from.  i love the snow.  it’s like nature’s mute button.  there is nothing like going out alone for a run and having the planet turned way down so that all you here is the sound of crunching ice crystals under your treads.  when it’s that quiet, i can hear my breath so clearly that it’s like I can feel it entering my throat, filling my lungs and pushing back out of me even more. 

i suppose running has always been a solitary event to me.  and it’s something i really look forward to doing alone. for years now my days have been spent working with and for people, constantly talking face-to-face, on the phone, sending emails, checking blogs, updating twitter, reading articles, doing research – i often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information exchange going on around me.  not when i run.  lots of people are part of running groups, or have running buddies.  not me, at least not yet.  as i said earlier, running is a lonely undertaking for me, and it’s on purpose.  i think that sometimes we’re scared to be alone, for fear of what our thoughts might reveal to us.  on my runs, things become clearer – they seem to crystalize for me.  so that lonely trek is one i almost always look forward to.

now the first half of the 6-miler was into the snow, and that was interesting – tough to look up without getting an eyeful of snow, so most of it was done head down, eyes on the road in front of me.   once i made the turn to head back though, the wind was at my back and i could really get a good look at the world around me.  it was beautiful, white, and perfect.  other people were out enjoying it by then, and campus was particularly buzzing.  it was definitely cold, so the thermal tights and windblocker came in handy. but a handful of snow was the perfect thirst quencher.  so that’s checked off, but i hope to get to do it again.  and you should too.

today was a different story – 18 degrees when i set out for a 5-miler.  the sun was out, but dude – it was cold.  about half way through i literally couldn’t feel my fingers.  and my face was pretty numb.  the biggest trick was dodging all the ice on the sidewalks.  tons of “refrozen” snow so it required lots of focus.  all-in-all this last week has been a real baptismal in winter running for me – a 18-miler all below freezing, a GREAT run in the snow and and icy obstacle course today.  all proof for me that winter is a special time for runners, a great time to see nature in her splendor and no excuse to stay in.