With the exception of becoming a wife and mother, I think that running has taught me the most about life, and helped me to be a better person as a result.
It is not so much the number of lessons learned from running, but their power, that is important.
I have had very powerful experiences of dealing with my own disappointment when a race did not go well and also learning to handle the emotion of envy when I others I ran with succeeded and I did not. I can still remember the pain I felt missing out on teams for one reason or another. But like most pain, it is pain that has made me stronger.
Through running I have met some amazing people. I have also been able to practically experience the wisdom of others – my coach, team mates and training partners, and writers like George Sheehan and, more recently Haruki Murakami. Essentially they all helped me grow as a runner. And through running you get to see the kind of person you are, and get the chance to become a better one.
When your body performs well, you see how you deal with strength, power, and if you’re fortunate, athletic success. When your body can’t perform, you learn to deal with fate, illness, and injury. You learn to ‘play the cards you’re dealt’, and to ‘know when to hold em’ and ‘when to fold em’. And you learn to value the good times whilst they’re here. You learn to ‘meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same’.
A year or two ago I got back into running. Since having kids I have always dabbled in it (one thing I have learnt is that I’ll always be a runner somehow even when life is crazy!), jogging now and then.
For the first time in years I started to run fast. I had such little time to put into my running that I approached it in a ‘quality’ not a ‘quantity’ way – short and sharp runs of a few kilometres most days. No time for long hours plodding half marathons that gave me such therapeutic head space in my pre kid days!
What I rediscovered with this touch of speed, was the absolute joy of running when your body works like a powerful machine. How on top of the world you can feel when you’re motoring along and not puffing like you’re about to expire. How you feel when you’re fit.
Of course like many things in life that time was fleeting. But I’ve once again got to a period of life where I’m reaching out for that, and I’m starting to feel the power in my body once again. And so that has me thinking about running.
The beautiful thing, is when there is power in your body, there is power in your soul.
This morning I ran and felt the beauty of cool air on my skin on a January morning. And I appreciated it. I felt happy feeling the rhythm of my feet. I felt my body had strength and power going downhill. And it helped me fight my demons.
But as in life, there are distractions that pull you away from what is good in running.
Sometimes you can become obsessed with the clock – wanting each run to be faster than the last. You can get on the cycle of always wanting better than what you are, and not appreciating what you’ve got.
Of course it’s good to strive for better, as long as you know that better is not everything.
You can also get distracted by all the gadgets and creating your running ‘image’.
The clothing you can dress in for running actually includes skirts and dresses these days! Again, it’s nice to feel you look nice, but it’s a sad day when your running is all about showing off your latest gear, or parading that marathon t-shirt to the world.
Yes, wear your t-shirt with pride. But don’t run just for the t-shirt.
For me, real running is fine tuning, and testing your body. It’s about your body being strong and powerful enough to provide health for your soul. Athletic success – if it comes – is the icing on the cake.
There has been a lot of stuff written about running. I’ve read a lot of it and come to realise that there is a real mix of powerful philosophy and elitist crap.
Steve Monaghetti wrote that it’s not a real run unless it’s over 20mins – crap: maybe for him, but not for everyone. For me 15 mins can do the trick. It depends on what you’re running for I guess.
I think Sheehan sums it up well when he states ‘running is where I can become all that I can be’ and that ‘sweat cleanses from the inside. It comes from places a shower will never reach.’
You run against yourself, for yourself, and to discover yourself. Against the forces that tell you to stop (fatigue, doubt and the business of life), for the quest for strength, power and happiness, and to discover your limits and your abilities.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/alain_limoges/4593736342/sizes/l/in/photostream/ with thanks to Alain Limoges.