Last Sunday, I was running along with my friend, Mark, and we got to talking about what we think about when the road or trail gets long and you're just traveling along. I don't mean one of those runs like I had this morning where I was just gutting it along and just about every step got my full attention. I was NOT in love with running this morning, but that was just between me and my ankles. Tomorrow will be better. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, where do I go to occupy my mind when I don't want right-left-right to be my only thought. I've talked in several posts about solving all the problems of the world, carrying Pi to a hundred decimal places, or trying to figure out how the heck the Alabama politicians, at any level, were actually ELECTED! I mean, one of them this week actually said this..."I will stand my ground till the cows come back to Capistrano"!! Oh...my...God!!
Ok, back to Running With Al. During my formative years, we moved just about every year. I think my parents were in the Witness Protection Program. Then during my summer vacations from school, my parents would ship me away for a couple of weeks with my Aunt Frances and Uncle John in Massachusetts, which I was not crazy about, and then about 6-8 weeks with my grandparents in South Florida, which I was crazy about because I had 4 cousins down there that were like brothers and sisters. It was just acting crazy and young for 2 months. So, during all this moving around, I lived in many, many houses, and so, sometimes along these runs where I need to find a mental diversion, I retreat to the deep recesses of 50 years ago and try to recreate the floor plans of these houses. I'm not talking about a quick walk-through...I actually can see me walking through the front door and then picture, clear as day, what room was to the right, what closet was to the left, what was down the hall, how was the kitchen set up. If you really sink it to it, you get engrossed in seeing the whole house, the windows, the doors, the chairs, even the smells and the "feel" of the house. I mean, ALL the details. The miles go by and you have some wonderful memories. Take your time and I think yu will really enjoy the trip.
Couple of months ago, I was running with my son in Boston, and we began talking baseball. This was right before the playoffs and I asked what teams have been in their parks the longest (it's the Red Sox of course). That involved just trying to come up with all the teams in each league - we're talking 15 teams in each league! And some of these teams moved around more than I did when I was a child. Washington to Texas, Montreal to Washington, Kansas City to Oakland, Philadelphia to Kansas City, St. Louis to Baltimore, and of course the curse of curses, 2 teams from New York to California! But, the point here (not at the time) is that this totally consumed the mind in a task that was doable while your legs just took over and moved you down the road. It's something that you dive deep into. It's not the shallow end of the pool...it's seeing how many layers you can peel away of those years.
If you've been running races for a while, here's one of these tasks right up your alley. Go back to your first few races and try to reconstruct the course in your head. Not just the overall start and finish - try to picture the turns, where the aid stations were...don't just say there were hills, try to feel and picture those hills...not the pain or the fatigue, but just the undulations of the course. If you've run Mercedes for years, we've gone through 4-5 course changes - try to remember as many of these courses as you can. Picture going up Montclair Road at mile 21, or conjure up the twists and turns through Crestline Village...see it! Like those rooms in my Grandparents house, try to be there. Heck, I can go back to the old Vulcan Marathons of the 80's or even the Magic City Marathon in the late 70's running through East Birmingham (Crap! I'm old!!). What you're doing is seeing how far back you can regenerate those memories that haven't been lost, but are buried under years of other memories. Maybe I can call it reverse visualization where visualization is trying to picture what will be...this is trying to relive what was.
You can play this little memory game during a run with what ever you want - an old neighborhood, a school, even an old job. But, sink into it and try to invoke as many small details as you can, the colors, the smells, the people you thought you may have forgotten. It's all still there, but sometimes it takes a good long run to remember where you've been, not just take you to where you're going.
I'll see you on the long and winding roads - AL
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