I just returned from a music festival in West Virginia — Clifftop ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03lusDmD_v4 ) —. An annual gathering of musicians. We play music, and talk, and play more music and visit some more. I was sitting with a friend after a jam the night before where a few strong personalities, maybe after a few drinks, began to take what had been a pretty congenial jam into a session that put them as the center of attention. With the balance off, one by one, folks started to pack it in for the night. I told my friend one reason—of many—that I run distance is that I’m entirely my own. For years I was a passionate rock climber. I had a community of climbers, some of whom I traveled with for varying trips. Both climbing and playing music in a jam demand a very intimate connection to others. When I hit the road for an hour run or longer, I am alone with my pace, my mental chatter, my breathing, my thirst, maybe my pain, maybe my elation. There are dozens of reasons why I run. One is to connect with myself and feel a sense of containment. I can’t call it a meditation (although sometimes that can figure in at some point in the run) without a concentration and sustained focus. My mind can run all over the place. But it does leave me, later in the day, with a clearer more focused mind.
Yesterday, with Don (my husband) away all this week, I couldn’t get out for the scheduled 7 mile run until after I’d dropped Henry (my 8 year old) off at camp. By 9:30 the sun was already hot. I tried a different route through the neighborhood on the South side of Semmes, over to Midlothian Turnpike, in effort to just pound out a good four miles before the 3 + miles to Westover Hill Boulevard and back. It felt like a slog up until the last mile when I picked up the pace for the final stretch. According to the Garmin my pace was more than a half a minute faster than my last training run with the MTT and for the rest of the day I was cheerful and optimistic.
Today I ran laps up and down the hills in Forest Hill Park. On the third or fourth climb I ran past a woman in running shorts and shoes taking a leisurely walk up hill. I explained I was doing hill repeats and she called out “I love it!” “Okay” I thought, “I can love it to”.
It changes constantly. One mile feels like a fight with gravity, another mile I feel like I’ve hit my rhythm. This week I have no injuries and I’m feeling strong. My hamstring could act up again, or my IT bands might trouble me tomorrow or next week or on my next long run. It’s relatively easy to be present with things as they are when I’m healthy. It’s a serious challenge to find equanimity when I’m injured. This is all part of the mental conditioning. It’s painful and challenging but something we must continue to negotiate, athletes or not. We are all human beings and our bodies, like all machines, have their limits.