Saturday, August 13, 2011

Where Will I Go Today?

"Explorers have to be ready to die lost" - Russell Hoban

Summer is an interesting time to train because of the humidity and heat. The fall, on the other hand, brings welcome relief and easier running to all leading up to the marathon season. But we are not in the fall, are we? No, when you go out at 5am to beat the heat, you're not beating anything of the kind. It's 78 degrees out and it's 90% humidity. Your only hope is to get done before the sun is high in the sky. When it's so blummin' hot, and you go out for a solo run, most of the time you're going to slow down and take it easy. No use charging up (insert name) Hill by yourself. No use doing telephone pole intervals when nobody is pushing you. No point trying to do an awe-inspiring tempo run, when there is nobody to awe. No, we run with ourselves, and who better to run with? When we run alone, we can be in any location or any situation we want. And as a long slow-distance runner, Walter Mitty never had it so good.

If I'm petering out on a run, like the non-wonderful run I had this morning, and I feel gravity making it harder and harder to lift my feet off the pavement, there's a good reason - it's because I'm in the last 10 miles of the Badwater Race in Death Valley. Instead of being sucked into the black hole of the Giant Bonk Abyss in Alabama, I'm holding together remarkedly well for 120 miles in 115 degree temperature. Trudge on Al. Relentless Forward Motion is the key!

If I'm trying to keep a fairly steady pace in the last part of a difficult training run, all of a sudden it's the last mile of the Olympic Marathon. The damn Chinese are gaining on me, but I'm USA, damnit, and they ain't gonna catch me.

Running on the Oak Mountain Trails alone becomes the most desolate part of The Western States 100 Mile a rainstorm. No cheering throngs. Just trying to click off the forest miles to the finish. No runners ahead to be seen, but I know they're there. No runners that I can see behind, but I know they're there.

Running allows us to be as we are in the moment. You can be wherever you want and whoever you want on your runs. In some cases it is where dreams are born out of thought or possibly even where they die out of reason. I am me on my runs. By myself, I run voluntarily and freely. The mind of a runner sure can work in strange ways. We carry on conversations with ourselves. When running alone, how else can we run at a conversational pace? We can try to concentrate on the mechanics of the run itself, but mostly, on my solo runs I am my partner and together we are crossing the United States, running rim-to-rim at Grand Canyon, or doing the Appalachian Trail.

They (there "they" are again - always popping up) say that you will get bored and burned out if you run the same courses all the time. Well, I've been doing basically the same roads and trails for the past 33 years. Funny how my mind is so scattered that I never get bored. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - I never know what I'm gonna get. It's not that I'm trying to divert my mind from thinking about the run. It's that running is so ingrained in me, my mind is free to go where it wishes to go and I just have my legs follow.

Many times, me and myself can solve all the problems of the world. The solutions are so simple. The fly in that soup is that as soon as I stop, those solutions fade like smoke in the wind. At the beginning of a run, I can convince myself that the thought of doing another 50 mile run is not so crazy, while an hour later down the same road I'm wondering how I ever did one in the first place. But it's me that's listening to this often repeated Comedy & Tragedy play. I'm ad-libbing the script as I go along. Who knows where a seemingly innocent run will take me? Here, there, and everywhere...that's where.

Ok folks, enough meandering for this week. Hope you all have a good week and I'll see you all on the roads, wherever they take you - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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