Striving with Things Impossible

6 Jun

“Now bid me run and I will strive with things impossible.” Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

“All runners announce their entry into the sport with the most basic athletic action: a step. A simple foot plant that leads to thousands upon millions more: some faster, some slower; at home and around the world; in sun, blizzard and driving rain; on pavement, dirt, mud, gravel, sand, loam, grass, oval all-weather tracks…A splendid step, a quiet step, a lonely step; born of some inner dialogue, some longing to be different, to be – not the best – but at least better.”  To Be a Runner by Martin Dugard

I have taken lots of steps myself. And lately, they have been less-than-splendid steps. There has been frustration with myself for not being able to run faster and further. I’ve become way too excited by red lights and weird IPod issues and anything else that calls for me to slow down and walk and wait and stretch and fidget. The idea that I would come back from my injury stronger was true. The belief that I would come back faster hasn’t proved the same.

In a moment of frustration, I informed one of my friends that I feel like I’m perpetually one day away from a good run.  I’m used to having 1-2 bad/miserable/slow/hot runs for every good run.  But not 9 difficult ones for every enjoyable one.

Last Sunday’s Run to Remember ended up being the second annual Run to Forget.  Despite running 21 miles at a pace much faster than I normally run a 10K, I was hot and dehydrated and frustrated. The race started at 7 am and I was sweating by about 7:10. Always a good sign. Since I was pacing some runners, I had to watch each mile clock carefully (but most of them were not working).  Just like hosting an event or a party can be stressful, pacing a race – where it is your responsibility to run at an even and level pace that will allow the runners to reach the finish by their goal time – is equally stressful.  Take the pressure of a race and add the pressure of helping other runners and you can imagine it.

Running the Boston Run to Remember, May 2012

I only ran twice last week after that miserable half marathon. I didn’t feel like running and I saw no value in forcing myself.  I didn’t look at the time, I didn’t care about the distance. I noticed all the various shades of green in the Fens Park (I counted 17 different hues). I stopped hating the geese and ducks for about 7 seconds as I gazed at their adorably fuzzy babies (then I remembered that they grow into geese and ducks). I thought about previous runs around Charles River. I tried to see the river through my new coworkers’ eyes, how much he’s enjoying running from his apartment in Harvard around the river. His excitement definitely rubbed off on me. I didn’t love my runs but I worked on observation and breath and stride and it wasn’t entirely painful.

But this past Sunday I ran the Old Sandwich Road Race and it was fun.  I love Myles Standish Forest and Plymouth and the oldest highway in America. I love running with people (maybe that’s why I’ve been in a funk these past few weeks, no one to run with). I love races that start at 10 AM (not 7 AM) which allow time for a normal breakfast and digestion time before the run begins. The route was a gorgeous point-to-point with only a semi-frustrating out and back portion of about 2 miles. We began on a cliff overlooking the ocean, then walked down a trail to the starting point. The first five miles were on a dirt trail road. I saw goats and horses and cows. I saw huge houses with pristine lawns. I got handed cups of water by tiny Cub Scouts at rickety folding tables. There were no crowds cheering but also no crowds to run through. The race was small.  No time clocks, no Gu marketers pushing their products on you, no strollers nipping at your ankles. None of us even bothered bringing music with us – we had each other to talk with.  I ran plenty of miles chatting with friends and quite a few miles on my own – tackling the rolling hills (the only frustrating part of the route).

I vowed to enjoy each step rather than wish them away.  And I think I did. The finish was much sooner than I expected. And finishing with friends was much more exciting than if I had set a PR.

Each step isn’t always fun. There are painful steps and lonely steps and frustrating steps and sweaty steps. There are fun steps and exciting steps and fast steps and happy steps. And in honor of National Running Day, today I am going to turn off the music and the GPS and just run.  However many steps I feel like. However fast or slow I feel like taking those steps. And enjoy the fact that things that seem impossible often are not.

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One Response to “Striving with Things Impossible”

  1. Meg June 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    I don’t think I will ever be A Runner but it is fascinating to read your journal entries about running. Thank you logging the miles so I can cheer you on from these happy sidelines!

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