My running has been a constant in my life since 1994.
When I first started I was seriously unfit. 10 minutes left me red in the face and gasping for air. Not pretty. I had done track all through school until senior school. 100 meter's was my specialty.
My original intent was to get back in shape after having a baby. There was no thought that 18 years later I would still be pounding the pavement having completed marathons around the world AND that I would find 96 km (60 miles) a mere task, and not this daunting experience.
My first 10 km was a massive mental hurdle.....once I got past that everything else was just numbers. I don’t say this to be heroic, because I really believe that anyone can do this..walk or run...indeed, we have a local event, the Kokoda Challenge , which is a 96 km (60 mile) team event, where the real hero's are the everyday non runners who walk this in under 39 hours. And over 1000 people do this every year.
Not all plans start out with a clear end goal in mind. Many of the best events and experiences of my life has happened when I didn't have a clear end goal. I set an intention for something...like..”get fit”...and then I let go of the details. (I write more about this methodology in creativity innovation)
I certainly didn’t fall in love with running during those first few months when every step was painful. If anything it was my sheer bloody mindedness that kept me at it. The shock that I could be so unfit and the determination to not have that be the case any more.Falling in love with running came slowly.
And like any lover, we have days when we fight. We also have days where we discover new joys in hanging together. When I found how much I love trail running, out in a forest, navigating rough terrain, surrounded by trees and sky, something deep in my soul found a place to let freedom reign. Or flying downhill, falling into running, totally focused, letting go, allowing gravity to take you, fearless. And those days where the mind shows up with enthusiasm and the body doesn’t...or the days when the body shows up with enthusiasm and the mind is still in bed....
Running is essential to me as my breath. For some people this connection is found in yoga, or dance, or meditation. I need to move, and fast. I need to be out there for a chunk of time.
The best times are when I disappear and there is just running and sometimes not even that. This is one of the reasons I love long distance. At some point you disappear, and time goes AWOL. I find sitting meditation hard work, but let me run for 2 or 3 hours, and there is peace. I don’t need to talk, I love silence, but I do need to move. Moving the body allows the inside to get still.
Running is my anger therapy. I have energy in buckets, high intensity energy. Running allows me to burn off the intensity. It keeps me sane, and interestingly, softer. Without running I am like a caged lion looking for its next feed.
Running is also a key part of my personal development program in my eternal quest to personal mastery. I have learned more about myself through running than I ever thought possible.
I see my mind working overtime, I overhear my complaints, my petty issues, the junk that goes on in my head. I listen to the arguments about quitting and not quitting, the games and strategies about one more lap, one more kilometer, one more....two more...I listen to the sabotaging thoughts that would have me stay in my warm bed....and somewhere along the path, the feeling good that I get from running became such an easy choice that I no longer have to fight my lazy indulgent mind. I would rather the feeling of having run, than the feeling of having stayed in bed. Any day. The first one vitalises me for the whole day, the second fills me with self loathing at my weakness.
Simultaneously, I have leaned to stay in intimate dialogue with my body. Listening, listening to every small sound, warning light, energy feedback mechanism. Not all runners learn to do this. Many ignore the subtle signals and break down, or push through when easing off is the way. The feedback is ever present. So there are those occasional days where I know that staying in bed is the wisest and best choice for my body/spirit. And I have the self esteem and care to listen and act on this. This is true discipline. To honor the right path....
I have learned about quitting. The pain of quitting goes on well beyond the time of quitting. It took my head six weeks to get over an event that I quit for no other reason than my mind deciding it didn’t want to do this right now. 6 weeks of noise in my head to save myself 10 minutes of physical discomfort. Ugh!! Never again will I quit, unless my body/health demands it. But my mind...if I listened to my mind I would be still home on the couch. My mind would have me stay in bed more days than run.
I remember the day I bungy jumped. I was watching the strategies of the people before me...they would go up there on the crane, their feet would be tied, and then they would hop to the edge.....their guide would say...5..4..3..2..1..bungy, and at that point they were supposed to jump. Those who jumped straight away were the exception. Most people hesitated. For some the hesitation lasted minutes, for some 20 minutes, for others it was permanent. Every minute extended the pain of not jumping. I decided before I went up that there was only one strategy. No matter what my mind said...no matter how noisy, and believe me, it was noisy, when the guide said bungy, I would jump. And that is what I did. So my mind and I have become friends...it makes noises, lots of noises, and I just keep running, or getting out of bed. I can now rely on my interior promises to self. This didn’t happen overnight. It took years of inner arguing.
Running keeps me young. I am running and swimming the same times I did 17 years ago. Sure, I need a bit more recovery, and I need to be smarter. But I am fitter now than ever in my life. I like that I can say that. I can see myself running until I am done.
Running allows me to eat well and freely. Most runners love to eat, and yet most runners also eat very healthy food. They learn to respect their bodies, and to fuel their bodies with vital food. I never deprive myself. Chocolate is on the menu every day. And carbs...love the carbs. But I also know what works for me, what adds energy and what takes it away. This has come from years of listening and fine tuning. Its still a work in progress.
In future articles I will write about many of the personal experiences I have had in my running, the revelations, events, challenges. Of course I am a very Positive Deviant runner. My specialty is the ultra distance events. Marathons plus. This is a peculiar world within the running world. I train with people who run everything from track to ultra distance, so I do speak the common language of runners. I have also done many triathlons, including Ironman, and I still swim three days a week.
For those of you who are the crazy warriors of sport, join me as I share my adventure....including writing from the places I travel to, and the runs I get to do all over the world. And please share your own stories. Maybe one day we will even get to run together, if I am in your town.
Even if you are not a runner, hopefully you will gain inspiration and illumination from these stories and pages. The lessons are universal.
Come run with me....
Do you have a great story about running? Please share it.
Where the truth lies... unravelling the deeper truth of injuries
Gold Coast Marathon 2010
The Six Foot Track in Australia's Blue Mountains, March 2010
Create a Training Program - the essential ingredients
Lose Weight by pounding the pavement
Adelaide Hills Trails
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hitting the road, Buenos Aires, Argentina
How to Build a Champion Team in a Day, Kokoda Challenge 2009
The Gold Coast Marathon -a test case for Hyponatraemia
Article: Endurance - Ultra distance as a metaphor for life
The love of Trails. The mini Kokoda Challenge, June 14th 2009
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