My Running Process
It’s close to noon and I find myself debating whether to go out or not. With the temperature in the low 90′s, an emblazoning sun tries to change my mind. There is a slight breeze that could temper my sweat, though. My cell phone begins to ring and I choose to ignore the call. The sound of the ring, coupled with the buzz from it’s vibration, is that final straw. I am spurred to motion. In two minutes, I have my FiveFingers on and I am out the door. My ear phones are pressed to my head as I take on the challenge of the overwhelming sunshine. Leaving it all behind…
Since my conversion to wearing Vibram FiveFingers, many people ask me why I like to run. I used to give them the details of the minimalist revolution that occurred in me two years ago when I read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougal. Today, however, that information is incorrect. It’s not about liking the run. I need the run. The book, plus the FiveFingers shoe wear, was the introduction and the tool to get me out. Now, it’s about the journey. It’s about having time to myself to think and, for lack of a better line, to stare down my past.
Each run for me is a process of three parts…
I start slow (You must go slow to go fast). I feel my muscles start to grind and then to loosen to what is happening. My lungs take in more air as the pace quickens. My skin gets lined with perspiration. My shoulders push back to allow my arms to align themselves to the running position that fits my body best. I sit into the rhythm that has begun. I constantly adjust until I find the stroke. When I finally find that perfect running position, the terrain no longer knocks me off the line. I focus, and pray, that I hold this line for as long as I can. At this point, only fatigue will break the spell. It is time for part two.
Part two is when my mind starts to wonder.
I begin to think about of all the things that I have to do for the day, week, or month. I think about things that are coming up, like a get together, appointments, or special events. Things that stress me are also breached as well. The thoughts tend to be good, but not always. In dealing with present problems and situations, one will not always have a positive reflection. I do my best to come up with decent solutions, though. All the while, my body is running. In part two my running is excellent. No wall has appeared, nor has any tiredness set in. I look, and feel, good while my brain deals with the present. Part two is the least productive part of the trip.
It begins slowly. I move past all the present day clutter. I think about all the people I know. All the people from the beginning of my consciousness till present day. Intertwined with the people are the choices I’ve made. How long did I know this person? Why do I not talk to them anymore? Did I cause this? I wonder what they are doing now…
I remember Jeff. He was my best friend growing up. When 8th grade arrived, I moved. When 10th grade arrived, I moved further still. I spent my college years, and most of my twenties, trying to find him again. I just wanted to see how he was doing. I didn’t try hard, though, more haphazardly then anything else. Then, when I was 29, I got an email from a random friend from my past (a person I also had some cleaning up to do with) alerting me that Jeff had died in a motorcycle accident. Why didn’t I try harder to reach him? Two week prior to his death I had found his brother. I didn’t go to his funeral.
I remember a second Geoff. We were decent friends during my turbulent twenties. While I was trying to figure out what to do with myself, he was a great crutch for me. He believed I had it all figured out. Of course, he couldn’t have been more wrong, but at the time it meant a lot that someone believed in me. There was this opportunity that I passed on mainly because Geoff told me it was a bad fit. It turned out to be a vital move in my life. He then moved to San Diego. One day, he caught up with me on facebook. We chatted online for awhile, and then he dropped the hammer. He told me he had Leukemia. He died a month later. I didn’t go to his funeral.
More stories flood my mind. I am the antihero in most of them…not a bad person, mind you, just a human being. I realize that I’ve played the role of every character in the fairy tale. I’ve been the villain. I’ve been the hero. I’ve waited for people, and I’ve left people behind. All the while, I pray that I have done the best I could in this lifetime…
I am struggling. My legs hurt. My chest is heaving. My form has been broken, and I am grasping to put it back together. Spittle flies from my lips. My feet ache. Everything in me is telling me to stop. My mind is re-living past failures, past wrongs, past missed opportunities. I am trying to make sense of it all. I am flawed, yet I strive to be perfection. However, to be human is to have weakness. The circle has no end. My mind, my consciousness, my being, does not allow me to stop, though. This run is more then exercise. It is penance for me. My run is for Jeff. My run is for Geoff. My run is for all the times I failed to live up to my end of the bargain. This is my pain. This is my cross to bear.
Then, I blink. I’m back in front of my house.
The ordeal is over. I begin to relax. My breathing gradually returns to it’s normal state. I feel tired, but renewed. The catharsis has been completed. I greet my wife and my sons as I step back into my life. I check my messages on the phone to start dealing with the present. Knowingly, I’ll ponder about what happened, but then look ahead to my next run…when it is most needed.