A year ago, four miles sounded like a long run to me. Today, Greg, my sister and brother-in-law, and I all ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. The crazy thing is, four miles still sounds like a long run to me. But I have to say, I have learned a lot by training for this and completing it today.
Essentially, running is just one big metaphor to me. There is no point in looking behind you to see just how slow you are or how many people are behind you. There is no point in thinking ahead and getting freaked out about how much further you have to go or how many people might be ahead.
The absolute only way, for me anyway, to survive, maybe even to enjoy the experience, was to focus on staying very, very present. This meant taking it deliberately slow – I averaged a 12-minute mile today – and steady she goes. It meant paying attention to the surroundings and not wearing my ipod, listening to the birds and noticing the wildflowers at the sides of the road, the river winding along side the course, the cheers and drummers and handmade signs and the water hander-outers. It meant talking out loud to myself in the later miles, thanking my body, telling myself to go easy, go gentle, doing great, keep breathing.
It was a weekend of soccer tournaments and violin recitals and logistics galore and uncharted territory, unprecedented distances, and all-you-can-eat pasta dinners. We’re home now, back in our assigned seats on the couch at our computers, catching up and once again preparing for a new week. But today, several times as I was running, I told myself, “When you run, just run.” It almost felt vacation-like, to be so unencumbered, my task so simple and straightforward for that stretch of time. Just to run. Just to start and keep going. Just like parenting. Just like building businesses. Just like marriage (this was actually the “advice” my dad offered me and Greg on our wedding day). Just like anything you do in a crowd but essentially must do alone. Just like life. Start and keep going. Check in with yourself and say nice things. Let the support in. Accept the hand-outs. And breathe, slow and steady as she goes.