It seems every time I run, I learn something or see some analogy. The road we live on has morphed, that long stretch of asphalt has become almost holy ground to me, for all the times I’ve encountered God on it, now. Is it the solitude of it? The physical pain of the feet pounding that breaks open something locked tight inside of me, makes me more willing or able to hear Him?
I don’t know why, I just know I am grateful for the way running is making me stronger, both inside and out. And ask everyone, what I am learning I am going to talk about, because that’s just how I process stuff! This blog is kind of a one-sided conversation and so when I get stuck on a topic (this month it happens to be running, as I gear up for the marathon) you may want to interject with a yawn, occasionally, but luckily I can’t see your eyes rolling. As always let me remind you: no one holds a gun to your head and makes you read my drivel!
Those of you still with me–do you want to hear about an aspect of running that has helped improve my every day, regular life?
Running forces me to be more balanced.
I am a passionate person, an all-or-nothing personality. Prone to great heights of joy and dark valleys of pain, in a single day. Heck, a single hour. I’ve grown used to embracing life through this filter–BUT you can’t run like that. When I started running in 2009, I didn’t know. The idea had been to run like I lived…meaning that I would tear out of the driveway and run like my feet were on fire and ignore all pain and focus on getting just as far as I could!! Before dropping in exhaustion, turning around and limping home in defeat. Surprise! I didn’t ever get very far and was filled with frustration.
Then I read beginners tips that said–duh–running is hard on the body, and not natural, and takes a lot of time and practice to build up to. If you just go all out? you will hurt yourself, and quickly give up. John Bingham said to start out running “so slow that neighbors stare and you feel a little ridiculous.” Other experts agreed. I heard “start slow, then taper”. The Team in Training run coach suggested walking/running equal paces, (I used telephone poles) and slowly eliminating the walk breaks over time until you could eventually run the whole way. I thought this was wimpy, silly, took too long and was far too simple: how could something so easy, work? I don’t want to be coddled! Yet my way certainly wasn’t working and I still desperately wanted to learn how to run, so for once I listened to the experts and did what they said to do…and shocker! it worked.
Even now, though I can run miles without a walk break, it is only because I still force myself NOT to tear out of our driveway. I have to be balanced. I have to force my feet to maintain an even tempo, despite a fast paced song or the mornings enthusiasm or that second cup of coffee, kicking in. I have learned that I only have so much energy, and in order to have long-term success? I have to ration out my small cup of strength for the long haul. If I want to go 6 miles? I can’t spill out the contents in the first 2 miles. This has translated well into my daily life. We’ve been lied to, you know. We’ve all been told that “we can have it all, do it all, be it all” and what they forgot to add?
“but not at once.”
Another aspect of running I have added to my real life?
Watch your form. Especially when you are tired.
I don’t mind admitting what a poser I am: My running form is a straight up copy of Jennifer Garner, the actress that played the TV spy Sydney Bristow, on the now defunct show “Alias”. I was full of quiet awe, watching her lean form jogging across the TV screen, her with the ponytail bouncing as she combined her daily cardio with dropping top-secret spy notes. There I sat on the couch, watching TV and nursing a new baby and both of us were soft and squishy and I was envious. Running wasn’t really big in Yakima (unless you were runnin from cops, haha) so this TV character was practically the only runner I had seen, and so the first time I ran and didn’t know what to do with my hands? I went all “Alias spy” in my head and tried to emulate her form. You love my dorky self, don’t you?
Later, as I read more about running I happily discovered that her form was totally correct. You need to keep a tall, straight back, yet run “loose”. Keeping your hands in a soft C shape like she did, not clenching your fists. Pumping your my arms straight back, not crossing the mid-line of your waist. I was being a goof and copying a TV star but it turned out all right! And the only thing I miss since cutting off my long hair is the feel of my heavy brown ponytail bouncing–just like Sydney’s did. She’s a foot taller than I am, but we had matching hairdos, so we could’ve passed for twins, I was convinced.
Form matters the most when you are tired. After 3-4 miles my back starts shlumping in a dowagers hump (lovely. Sydney never gets tired!) Then my arms started crossing at the waist. Soon, I realize the only view I’ve seen is the tops of my shoes, not the horizon, and I am overstriding with my legs, again. So I tell myself “Act like a fresh, strong runner!” Because I feel neither, so I really am “pretending”. It feels silly and a little hypocritical but it’s magic…every time. Just as soon as I pull my head up, straighten my posture, take shorter strides and focus on pumping my arms correctly? I feel a burst of energy and strength come back! It’s almost like my heart and mind are taking cues from my body and thinking and feeling whatever it interprets, in my physical form…
slumping? shuffling? looking down? body says–oh! she is exhausted and cannot continue. Shut down all systems!
tall back? smile on? looking ahead? body responds-oh! she’s serious, so open those reserve tanks up, baby!
So how does this correlate? Because in regular life…I get tired, too. I have walked with God 30 years now, and I still forget my form when overwhelmed or exhausted. It’s simple stuff, too–as simple as “head up, back straight”… Every day find some time for reading the Bible, and pray. It’s the “form” that gives energy, and purpose, and strength for life’s journey. Easy peasy. Know that. Of course. 30 years. got it. and yet…
When I neglect that simple form: weariness sets in my spirit, fast. I can only go “a few miles” into the day and then I am out of my own strength and naturally start “looking down at my shoes”-myself. I revert back to my innate selfishness, and whine and grumble, and snap at the children.
The best thing to do right then? is go back to “good form”. I’ll tell myself “okay–act like a fresh, strong Christian!” even if it feels false, or untrue at that moment.
Smile instead of snap. Serve instead of sit. Pray instead of pout.
Focus on good form: Read a few verses, pray for as long as needed-just let the Spirit of God lift these eyes up and off of myself and gaze for a bit on that horizon coming closer-eternity. Every time, I am amazed at how quickly He works, how fast He can fill a dry cup back to the brim. I feel renewed and with that fresh energy and enthusiasm, I am able to, once again, “run the race in such a way as to gain the prize.”