29 December 2010

Sneak Up On It

Somewhere around October, I sort of stopped running. I’d been doing a pretty good job of staying consistent until Fall Break, when we took a camping trip to Zion which ended with the whole family getting sick. It took us a while to recover. Also during that time I decided that I ran too slowly, and I told myself I needed to go faster. And so, when I was healthy enough to run again, I took it up a few notches on the treadmill. And I hated it. It was too hard. It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t getting out of my warm cozy bed in the morning, hitting snooze a million times (Forgive me, Dan, for my optimism and for believing each night that yes! Tomorrow, I will run. I will!). And then I somehow stopped going to yoga class too, not finding time due to some other obligations, but still finding time for the next episode of Deadwood and a Manhattan.

And so, by mid-December I had quit running completely. And a few more pounds snuck on, and the Christmas goodies began arriving en masse, and I didn’t like how my pants fit and, even more important, I didn’t like how I felt: soft and sluggish in mind and body, and so very weak the few times I managed to make it to yoga.

I hate feeling weak. Not that I’ve ever been incredibly strong physically, but at some point over the summer I was able to do chatarunga. And for a girl who used to struggle to do “girl push-ups” that was a true accomplishment.

Christmas Eve was a beautiful, sunny day. Short-sleeve weather, finally, after about a week of rainy, grey days that ended with an exclamation point of snow. And so, that afternoon, after the cooking was mostly done and before the festivities were to begin, I set out for a walk. Except I didn’t walk. I ran. And I ran slowly. And it didn’t feel quite right, my stride wasn’t there. It was a slog, but I kept going, stopping only a few times to catch my breath, and I did manage to run all the way up the Big Hill (capital letters intended – if you saw the Big Hill you’d agree). And while running didn’t feel quite like I remembered, it did feel kind of good. Good enough to make me run again the day after Christmas. And then, again today. I’ve managed to log only six miles so far, but that’s more than I ran in October or November.

While I run, I think. I think about the people in my life, writing, my to-do lists, future trips I want to take. Running clears my head like nothing else I’d ever done, even more so than yoga. Today while I ran, I thought of my friend Roberta, who is a runner, too. She’s also a sage, although her humility would require her to deny it.

Once I asked her how she was able to run longer and longer distances. And her advice was so simple it floored me: sneak up on it. And that’s become my new mantra, not just for running, but for writing, and for all those other goals in life that seem unattainable, unreachable: sneak up on it.

I told her a few weeks ago that I thought I should run faster, and I was really surprised when she raised her eyebrows and asked why. I didn’t really have an answer, other than a sheepish, “But I run so very, very slow.” And so – finally – I gave myself permission to just run. At my pace. And guess what? Today, as I ran, I saw it. I felt it. I snuck up on it, and I found it. My stride.

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