This week marks the halfway point in training for my first half-marathon of 2014. And this one is extra special because it’s my own private welcome home to the city where I grew up. I always pause when my training schedule takes me over 6.5 miles. Halfway to the half. I consider the challenges of higher volumes; I consider my sanity as I once again stretch my body to this goal.
I was asked this week what I love most about running. Given that I am way overdue on a blog post, I thought to consider this here. My response: Everything after mile two. It takes me a couple of miles to find my groove. Running is a mental and physical challenge. I am screwed if I let my mind get too far out in front. My body brings me back to every twist, pull, and sprain I have ever had. My left ankle goes first. The rotation continues until they have all spoken to me through a twinge, jab, or jibe. I hear them, I feel them, and I tell them too bad. We’re going to keep going.
In the second mile, I know exactly how the rest of the run is going down. The devil on my shoulder takes its last shot to get me to turn back. That’s not gonna happen. It’s time to calm my breath, find my cadence, and hit my stride. I make sure my foot is on strike. Don’t pull that left ankle; don’t hold on with your right foot. Make sure those hamstrings and quads aren’t working more than they should. Shoulders are relaxed. Keep the arm swing easy. Let the core power the distance. I revisit this check throughout, but the way it shakes out here is pretty much what I am working with for the duration.
Mile three and I am sinking into the sweetest part of my run. It’s time to cruise. The steady flow of endorphins and pulse of cadence allows my spirit to open wide. I take in what’s around me. The sounds are courtesy of my wide-ranging, eclectic taste in music. You may find me singing along the way. Maybe it’s my lyrical style and nature… maybe it’s the endorphins… either way, it’s just me.
I learned early on to keep my head up and eyes forward. Don’t look at your feet. You will sharply increase the likelihood you will run smack into something. Trust me here. It requires more energy to look away from what’s ahead of you. Your breathing falters. Your form suffers. It takes longer to finish. To counter this, I try to look as far down the road as I can. I imagine what’s at the point where I can’t see any further. I wonder what’s around that next bend. I create a vision and then I run toward it.
This is when running becomes like life. It’s practice. It reminds me that practice helps us reach our goals. There are times where everything is working perfectly and it’s a beautiful sail. There are others where I am not in it, and I find myself stopping, walking, and even turning back before I should. There are those days I just don’t feel it. There are times I wonder how the heck I made it through because I was such a mess. Just like life.
Running reminds me that it’s about balance. Keep your mind and body in check. Create a steady rhythm to support the spirit. Keep breathing. It takes more effort to look down and away. You totally have to peek back before shifting lanes, but only a glance. Don’t lose focus of what’s coming. If you spend too much time looking behind you, it takes more time to get where you want to go. You almost always miss something amazing. Just like life.
Running allows me to wonder, imagine, and envision what’s down the road. It gives me space to question, challenge, and consider. The moment the devil whispers it’s OK to give up. Whether I am letting my imagination wander or working on a specific goal, this is opportunity to visit my dreams. Make sure all is in check, adjust as needed, and keep running. Always looking to the point where I can’t see. Feeling the fear of the unknown, what lies at the end of my fingertips, just beyond my reach…until I get there. My stomach flutters, my heart pounds, my lungs reach for oxygen to take the risk. Then I decide to take the turn. Just like life…