Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ease of the Difficulty

Running has a way of invoking a strange flavor of nostalgia.
Most aspects of life can generate some moments of reminiscence, but the act of running seems to allow a contradictory, almost paradoxical set of circumstances to come to the fore.
Yesterday's run wasn't particularly long and certainly wasn't particularly fast, but it was rather warm.  Having not been training with any real rigor over the last couple months, the heat was enough to provide a non-trivial amount of difficulty, both in terms of the run itself, and in terms of simply getting off the couch and stepping out the door.  At the end of the run, however, as is typically the case, the enjoyment of such exertion had become the predominant point of note of the run.
That's not to say the physical difficulty was lessened, and that's not to say that the mental challenges associated with starting and continuing the run were in any way nullified or forgotten.
It's simply to say that somehow, after stepping up to face the challenge, an inherent comfort with that challenge seemed to manifest itself.
The extrapolations of this realization apply to much more than a mere Monday afternoon run.  Hard workouts, road races, marathons, ultras, they all present their own unique challenges and difficulties.  They all require some level of stepping up to the proverbial plate, but they also seem to allow, even provide, a certain serenity once undertaken.
Truth be told, this concept of tranquility within a challenge reaches far beyond running itself and into many aspects of life in general.  Burdens are not necessarily lessened, but once shouldered, are somehow more manageable if simply allowed to be.
How to get to the point of quietude within hardship is still something of a mystery; the miles and miles of running over days, weeks, months, and years are definitely a large factor in the running subset of this idea, and presumably, the day in and day out plugging away at any aspect of life could provide the requisite analogous experiential base upon which to build such a remarkable form of nostalgia.  Knowing, understanding, and remembering tests of yore are surely how this comes to be.
The mechanism of it all is perhaps difficult to decipher, but once achieved, how remarkable of a catharsis can be provided...
Any challenge could be easier to face.

The ease of the difficulty makes itself known.
The ramifications are truly fascinating...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Priority Propriety

There was a time when others might bestow the title of "runner" upon me, whatever that actually means, and there have been many times when it might actually have been accurate.

Such a title might be stretching the definition of the word if used to describe my running habits of late.  One or two (or no) runs per week certainly falls short of the "serious runner" standard, and hardly even qualifies for the much dreaded "hobby jogger" handle.

But that's alright...

One of the lessons that we (or at least I) have been fortunate enough to learn is that of priority propriety.  To be sure, there was definitely a time when running occupied a priority tier unbecoming an activity of such necessary frivolity.  To my former surprise, life is rearranging these tiers.

At a group run last night, it was good to see and catch up with running friends.  It was good to stretch out the legs and feel the lungs burn a little.  It was good to hear everyone's excitement about his or her next big event, goal, or aspiration.

But it was also good to remind myself where my priorities lie.  I certainly am on the lookout for the next big event for which to train, but perhaps an even more exciting aspect of looking for the next running event is that of piecing into the puzzle of the rest of life.
I'm excited about getting back into a training schedule, both as a scalded-dog racer and as an observational outdoorsman.  I'm more excited about the people, places, and things that will come into my path during the course of this training schedule, both because and in spite of it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Realization

Joints ached and popped with the too-sudden start that generally results from being in a hurry.

The hectic outset predictably devolved into a rough, awkward, disjointed run, punctuated by needless near-misses with rolled ankles and labored breathing unwarranted for such a trifling pace.  The humor of the situation didn't really present itself until after the second or third instance of a mental breakdown almost being caused by fully law-abiding drivers calmly passing by.

I just had to laugh.  It was ludicrous.  With only a short run left and hours before any obligations, I only had myself to blame for any consternation, and upon very brief further examination, any stress in the moment was simply a fabrication of my pointlessly hurried mind.

This run, as are many others, was explicitly intended to be a carefree and relaxing time, a bright spot in the day.

But this run, as are many others, had been sullied by the rest of the day's concerns forcing their way into its mental sanctuary, and consequently manifesting themselves in a very physical way.

Every now and then, we've just got to step back and realize the ridiculousness of our own self-imposed dire straights.  With this realization often comes the grace required to allow for those runs that we so often wish we could convey to others, but for which we have no words.

At least in this case, the realization predictably evolved into a smooth, collected, rhythmic run, punctuated by subtle delights and hidden nuances inherent with such pastime.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Run in the Rain

The light rain hitting my face was more of a simple observation than an annoyance.

Truth be told, a single iota's worth of planning could have prevented it by simply looking at the forecast and packing a hat to wear.  Oh well...

All other aspects of yesterday's run proved quite pleasant; a slow-moving cold front provided light rain for most of the day, which cooled things to an almost ideal temperature for an easy run after work, and, as occasionally noted with early-morning runs, such conditions effectively greyed-out the world around me, which in turn provided a feast for the other reactively-heightened senses.

Wandering thoughts were occasionally punctuated by momentarily noticing a fat drop from a tree amongst the nearly mist-like rain, or taking in the smell of the perfectly cool-not-cold rain.

Soon enough, those same thoughts would meander away from the external, only to be brought back by another minor incident of note, the cycle repeating time and time again.

The current faux-taper for an upcoming race ensured that standard achiness, stiffness, and concern for pace were at least somewhat abated, and therefore allowed an even greater freedom to enjoy the moment.

These are some of the most fleeting and most enjoyable runs we get, if we simply allow them to be.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Semi of Reality

Cruising along, blissfully disconnected from the world, with only the occasional lucid thought bubbling to the surface of a vast and churning ocean of subliminal thought, the semi came as something of a shock to the system.

In and of itself, the semi wasn't particularly noteworthy.
In and of itself, the run wasn't particularly noteworthy.
In and of itself, the intersection wasn't particularly noteworthy.

The confluence was.

...or at least seemed to be...

Objectively, the semi was simply going through the daily grind of doing the job for which it was intended, and in similar fashion, the run was simply another part of the daily grind of training.
But subjectively, the semi was as out of place in my little world of running as I assume I was in its little world of work.

Barreling down a hill, turning a corner, and relishing in the ease and flow of the run, the semi waiting at the intersection simply served to snap me back into reality.  The minor trajectory adjustment that resulted in a slight break in stride threw me out of rhythm for the remainder of the run.

It seems almost petty to allow such a passive aspect of the route have such a profound effect, but in another sense, perhaps this particular aspect of running is quite profound and, too often, only has passive effects.

So many aspects of our daily runs escape us due to our being lost in thought, lost out of thought, or simply lost.  Sometimes the semi of reality can bring us crashing back into the real world and thereby allow us to experience the world through which we run in a more active way.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Things Unseen

Unless I'm mistaken, it's been said that something like 90% of the information your brain perceives is visual.  It would logically follow, then, that an environment in which vision was reduced would yield significantly less perceived information.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that, yet again, a pre-dawn run seemed to fly in the face of logic.

Stepping out into the darkness around 4:30, I'd be lying if I said that I was happy to be out of bed, but, also true to form, within a very few minutes, the loathsome facade had fallen away, and I was struck by the wonder all around me.

...that I couldn't see...

Sure, the stars were gorgeous as usual, and yes, the faint overcast of city lights radiated beautifully upward in the distance, but the things unseen were the true marvel of the morning.

With the sun still far from threatening its arrival, and with the groggy blur slowly shaking out of still-sleepy eyes, the other senses bolted to life.

Smelling the damp trees and grass all around, hearing the chirping insects and occasional hissing sprinkler, feeling the cool, humid air rushing past while road slowly passed underfoot; it seemed like even the sensations inherent with perennially tight ankles and achy arches were enhanced and, somehow, more pleasant.

Could it be that through the deprivation of a primary sense, we can actually gather more sensation via the empowerment of the others?  Is it possible that the dark, calm solitude of an early morning run can teach us more about the world around us than the cacophony of perception that comes with the daylight?

This morning's run seemed to indicate so, but this afternoon's might challenge the notion...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Denton on Training

If you've never read John Parker's Once A Runner or it's late coming sequel Again To Carthage, I would highly recommend doing so for a variety of reasons, assuming you have at least a token interest in either running or personal struggle, as both are included in the books, and both seem to be analogs to the other therein.
At some point in Again To Carthage, the protagonist's mentor Bruce Denton offers a bit of sage wisdom gleaned over the years and through the miles:  running is fun, but training is decidedly less enjoyable.

I would disagree.

Granted, I've never trained, run, competed, or in any other way existed at the elite level of Denton or his protege Cassidy, the stories' main protagonist, but I have run, I have trained, and I have competed.  Hard.
I agree that running is fun.  I enjoy doing so.  My disagreement comes with the assertion that training is less enjoyable.

Training is hard.

Training can suck.
Training can hurt.

Training can beat you up and leave you doubled over, panting, wondering why you chose to embark upon such a journey, with a ludicrous goal in a silly activity for an absurd distance.

...but that's what makes it so marvelous...

It truly is a marvel what you can do, both in terms of what you can achieve and how you can shape and mold you physical, mental, and emotional self through this outrageous act of training.
Others don't and won't understand it and will, more often than not, try to convince you to relent, but you can't.  We can't.  And what's more, we can't explain why.

Yesterday's run, for whatever reason, was hard.  It sucked.  It hurt.  It beat me up and left me doubled over, panting, wondering why I chose to embark upon such a journey, with a ludicrous goal in a silly activity for an absurd distance.

...and it was marvelous.

Running is fun. Training is fun, too, but it can truly suck.

Here's hoping you're training for something...