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Mpls, MN, United States

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I did two three-mile runs with my dad while I was in California last week--the first, sadly, that I'd done since I was out there over Christmas. During part of the latter trip, I was still recovering from my marathon-induced tibial stress fracture, but although I seemed to be fully healed by the time I left, and had completed a handful of successful runs, the snow and ice out here put a distinct damper on any momentum I might have accumulated in the warm sunshine.

Tonight, however, inspired by 42° (!) highs and running talk earlier in the grad office (at least two of my classmates are very interested in running this year's TCM), I paused only to change my clothes after my bike ride home before heading outside again.

The experience was certainly different from my Californian runs: I wore a hat and several layers, and there were periodic stretches of slush on the sidewalk. My dad's three-mile route is a straight out-and-back in the middle of the desert, but mine here circles through residential areas, along the edge of the (currently still frozen and snowy) lake, and back along the Greenway, where today I saw many fellow runners and bikers.

At about six minutes in, I wasn't sure running my full loop (just shy of 3.5 miles) was a good idea. But, recalling my theory that one should never stop running after just two miles, I kept going.

I'm so glad I did! I soon warmed up nicely, and the music on the Marathonator just kept getting better. By the time I reached the lake, extravagantly white and a clear reminder of just how ridiculous and delightfully crazy we runners circling it were, I was feeling amazing. I've never had a runner's high on a run shorter than seven miles (and they're fairly rare for me, even on longer runs), but I don't know how else to describe my sensation for the next 1/2 a mile or so, as I left the lake and headed onto the Greenway, where the sun at my back cast my long shadow in front of me. I was giddy, ecstatic, euphoric--probably the happiest I've been in Minneapolis this winter.

Maybe it was the release of toxins through my pores, the sun hitting my third eye, or just the welcome and long-overdue sensation of being a human in possession of a still-highly-tuned body good for more than carrying about my fev'red braine, but after a short 35 minutes, I was a renewed woman.

It can be very hard to get back into training after a long hiatus--or, for that matter, to convince oneself it's a good idea to run at all, even in the midst of training. There are reasons why running is good for me--it's a good cardio workout, it improves bone density, it de-flattens my butt--but perhaps the main reason is that it grants me the opportunity for (and the condition from which I can receive) the intense and wonderful ecstatic experiences like this afternoon's.

Once again, running proves itself, I think, an apt metaphor for life. Rainer Maria Rilke, whom I have quoted here before, wrote, "But those tasks that have been entrusted to us are difficult; almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious." Running is no exception. It's serious, and therefore difficult. Achieving marathon condition--let alone running the 26.2 miles--is hard. Doing it right requires huge commitment, and extreme dedication of time and resources. For the rare flashes of absolute brilliance, there are hours of suffering.

But I like who I am as a runner--the way my body looks and works, and the confidence that comes with knowing I can (and have) run 26.2 miles. I like the opportunity of getting out of my head for a while--"outrunning the crazies," as a friend put it today. The work it takes to get there is worth it, because of who it makes me--as well, of course, as the persistent joy and occasional ecstasy.

It's an encouraging way, I think, to think about the rest of life--school, relationships, careers, etc. I'm not an advocate of suffering, precisely. But if life is pain anyway, it may as well be worth something, right?


Carissa J said...

I would seriously go for a run right NOW if I didn't have to go to work. That's how your post made me feel: get out side! run! now!

Tara VinCross said...

You're inspiring! This makes me want to get out and run! And, the thought of MN makes our Seattle 37 degrees and rain seem manageable.

Curly Sue said...

Wow...I've never experienced that runner's high. The aching of muscles, knife-like inhalations, headaches from cold air...those I've had. I guess that's why it's hard for me to run. I've never felt any kind of reward for it. Just punishment.

K L said...

I am jealous of you. I came jogging-slowly-up the rim of the Navajo Monument canyon and got winded. After a minute. I am taking my dog for a run when I get home.

Anonymous said...

so this has nothing to do with your blog!!! i'm making a recipe book for jeni for her wedding and want some of your/your mother's recipes to put in it. :-) email me in the next couple of days if you get a chance!

Grad School Nothing said...

I recently started riding my mountain bike again after nearly 2 years away from it. It felt very good, in spite of the fact the friend I went with told me the reason my throat was getting sore after riding was due to the fact that "excess blubber" had built up on my neck after my two years of decadent living. In this case "decadent" meaning: sitting around after work and playing video games. I have since taken to wearing neck scarves.

On an unrelated note, I don't know what I have never read this blog before. I enjoy it very much. May I link to it from my own?

Kendra said...

i need to read your blog more! you inspire me to run and get fit!!! :)