Tuesday, May 09, 2006

why i need running (as much as running needs me).

i just got done working out at the gym and, as i showered off in the locker room, i got to thinking. if i had to identify my most prominent mental “quirk” (it’s okay – go ahead and laugh), it would be my unfailing tendency to always, always, always think about “there,” at the expense of “here.” sometimes this tendency manifests itself spatially – my knack for returning from vacations hell-bent on moving to boston, london, cedar falls, milwaukee, you name it, or my undying love for iowa city – and sometimes temporally – backwards to the summer when i was 15, the winter i fell in love with drew, the end of senior year of high school, or forwards to the end of the semester, my next birthday, the completion of my ph.d. don’t get me wrong; this “habit” has served me well. when most of my fellow students are worrying about the next paper, i’ve got it done and have already moved onto the next assignment, the next reading, the next conference, the next project. the only problem is that in my haste to get to “there,” i never really enjoy the being “here.”

what does this have to do with running? well, running has been, for much of my life, the battleground on which this war of “here” and “there” has played out. when i finished second in the distance run at the national lifeguard championships, i didn’t want to think about the 30 girls i beat, i wanted to think about the one girl i didn’t. and when i won my first race in high school, i enjoyed it for approximately one afternoon until i started to panic about how i would get faster and what i would be expected to achieve next. this fear, this constant preoccupation with “there,” is what made me quit running over and over and over again.

and i’ll admit: when i got on the treadmill today and realized that after one “pathetically slow” 9 minute mile and one “disgustingly worse” 9.30 mile i needed to actually (gasp!) WALK, i was ready to throw in the towel. i didn’t want to be “here” – in this 29 year old body that couldn’t string together a couple of sub-10 minute miles. i wanted to be “there” – in my 15 year old body, clipping off 5.40s or 6.00s or 7.00s or even 8.00s.

but i kept going. i walked for a while, let my legs recover, and started running again. and when i stepped off the treadmill, i walked over to the indoor track to stretch my legs out. and i started to realize that being “here” is okay. i can still run quickly and gracefully enough around the track that all of the basketball players can’t help but watch. i can breathe better than i could a year ago. i’ve got a strong body. i’ve got long legs. i’ve got a perfect stride. and i’m slow-ish. but so what? for once, i’m “here.” and “here” is pretty good.

3 Comments:

Anonymous bridget said...

"here" is perfect. there is something quite liberating about allowing yourself to be "here" instead of "there" (what a great way to conceptualize space!). i think about "there" a lot too . . . but i would much rather find peace where i am than worry about something that i have little control in shaping and making, if that makes any sense.

those 9 minute miles are damn impressive, by the way.

heck, you are damn impressive and i am addicted to reading your blog! has anyone ever told you that you should quit your day job and become a full time writer?

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Alison said...

Nice post, nice blog.

I'm glad that Bridget linked to your blog so more of us can follow along.

Good luck with your training!

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:45 PM  

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