Sunday, September 13, 2009

Run, Forrest, Run!

Yesterday morning I woke up early and was out the door by 7:20 for a long run. My intent was 9.5 miles, but after measuring the part of the distance I was unsure of this afternoon, I discovered that I misjudged the distance - for a change, it was more than I thought. I actually ran 10.3 miles.

I started running "in earnest" last February. I ran some a year ago, but just threw it into my cardio periodically to mix things up. What caused me to change from running periodically to running more regularly was a 5K in February of this year. While I can't say I really enjoy running in and of itself, and I'm not a super fast runner, I enjoyed the whole vibe from that race, and found that it gave me energy rather than depleting it. Since April I have done at least one race a month, starting with 5Ks, and moving to 10Ks the months of June, July, August, and September. Next month I plan to do a 5K and a 15K, and the month after that at least one half marathon. Maybe two. Depends on whether or not I decide to train for a marathon in February. I'm pretending that I am, but still giving myself an out.

So, while races are what motivate me, and I don't really enjoy running by myself each week, I have to say that yesterday morning's run was incredible. I did 2 minutes running/1 minute walking intervals for the entire time. It was cool outside, with a nice breeze, and I frequently found myself singing along to whatever was playing on the iPod. Somewhere between miles 5 and 8 I really became amazed with myself. Who is this person who purposefully chose to get up early on a Saturday morning to run? Me, the person who just 1.5 years ago didn't like to exercise, much less break a sweat. And who is this person who is being successful with each 2 minute interval, even if it is in the middle of a hill? Yep, it was me, again.

Thing is, I was enjoying myself! And it wasn't a race day! It was just me - seeing what I can do. Refusing limitations, whether they be real or imagined. I don't think I was experiencing a runner's high - perhaps it was... but what really struck me yesterday was even though I was able to focus on details, such as breathing, eliminating foot pronation, rhythm, posture, I was more interested in the process of the run than in putting the run behind me - something that seems to have emerged because I am running further than 5K. And while I paid attention to the details, I was also able to really sit with the thoughts that popped into my head and ruminate on them. It was almost like each step became an act of worship, as with each step I felt power and connected to a greater power. I felt pride and joy that seemed to emanate from within and surround me. Pride and joy that not only have I quit hiding in this world, I have quit letting others define me.

Why didn't I exercise when I was younger? Partly because my parents wanted me to [yet they didn't exercise, so I didn't really see what the big deal was]. And while I knew I should exercise, the rebellious little rascal in me figured I wasn't "fat," and who was society/doctors/etc. to dictate what I should or shouldn't do, anyway? I think it was also to allow me to hide in my body. I know now that I didn't feel good about myself, and a lot of choices I made in my 20s and early 30s were to allow me to hide. Life was nothing more than going through the motions. I also dressed and acted in such a manner that said, "don't look at me - I'm just part of the wallpaper." Even now, I have a few friends who I don't see all that often who make the comment that they can't imagine me exercising like I do, because they think of me in that "hiding" frame. But that goes back to the "who defines me" idea. I define me. I choose to exercise. I decide how I want to spend my time. And more and more it is in not listening to those who "can't imagine" but in being with those with whom I feel alive.

I find myself using the word savor a lot, but what I have found over the past year is that is exactly what I'm doing. I will frequently be doing something (in this case running), or watching something or others, and I realize that I am suddenly taking a moment to really absorb what is happening around me. Almost like taking a mental picture for myself - recognizing that these things are what I want to remember. More than that, though - recognizing that in these moments I am really living. I'm not just willing the days or the time away. I am actively experiencing my life and the people in it, and enjoying the moments for the richness that they hold. So different than how I was just five short years ago.

10 miles. Incredible. Everything about it is just plain incredible.

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