On Running

Sometimes I hold anger far longer than I should, or I find myself thinking about the past and questioning everything about the present.  It’s hard to let go of regrets; and even though Edith Piaf loudly proclaimed, “Non, je ne regrette rien,” it’s hard to just be completely okay with everything sometimes.  I don’t know if I believe that things happen for a reason.  I do think that things just happen and that we need to live our lives with the fluidity of a river; it’s own force pushes it on through eventually to the larger destination where it joins into the sea.  The river flows and turns according to the path carved out in the earth; it adapts to the road set before it.

So I try to accept the things that happen, I try and ask for the serenity to accept what I can not change and to focus on what I can, but it proves difficult (mostly to my own stubbornness).

So I run.  I have always hated running.  I was that kid in gym class–yeah, you know the one–doing the 12:00 minute mile (with lots of huffing, puffing, and stopping).  I struggled to run a sub 8-minute mile for my physical fitness tests when I was at the Naval Academy.  I ran when I absolutely had to.  And then one day last year when I was at a very low point (constant replaying of Pink Floyd’s The Wall in my car driving home from work), one night I listened to a song by Florence + the Machine and I heard the lyrics:

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run

Run fast for your mother and fast for your father
Run for your children for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind you
Can’t carry love with you if you want to survive

And everything seemed so simple: I needed to run.  2 miles turned into 3.  3 turned into 3.5 and then 4, 4 turned into 5 and 5 would eventually turn into 6, and so on.  I just needed to run.  And I was now running for completely different reasons; not for a PT test, not for gym class, not for anything other than to clean myself out emotionally and spiritually.  Not worrying about distance or time, I just learned to run for longer periods of time, and suddenly I was running distances much longer than I had ever run on a regular basis.  Just  me, my lungs, the rhythm of my breathing, the music I listened to.  Everything turned back into what we are at our basics–animals running and existing to survive.  The beauty of the body, feeling my limbs and my bones all working in perfect unison to self-propel.  The divine machine.  I’ve been reading Christopher McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  It’s the story of a man searching for answers about what makes it so that certain people can withstand extreme distances and conditions when running.  The interesting thing is that most of the people (and even the mysterious Tamahumara tribe) in the book had something in common: running was somewhat of a spiritual practice for them.  The Leadville 100 race started in Leadville, Colorado was borne out of a town’s despair, Caballo Blanco aka Micah True began running because of a broken heart; I am fascinated by the power that the simple movement of one’s body can have on the psyche and the will to survive.

For runners and athletes alike, I highly recommend this book.  When I’m feeling down and like I’m getting myself into a rut because of negative thoughts I think of a line Caballo Blanco has:

“I saw a 95-year-old Tarahumara man walking across these mountains.  Know why he could do it? Because no one told him he couldn’t.”