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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Runner's Dilemma, Part I

I confess. It took me by surprise, but I discovered, by chance, LilianQ, a reader of this blog. Apparently, she's a runner in Singapore going through some variation of my efforts. She's worse. She's got the marathon bug. (Secretly, so do I, but that's a few steps farther than my present circumstance.)

She noticed the thought I have on the left side of each page:
A runner's dilemma? He must run, no matter what shape or situation he is in. The dilemma is finding a resolution despite being older, fatter, slower than when running was graceful.
There once were those days. Running was graceful. Now, it is not. Then, I ran because of sheer joy. Endorphins flooded my system like a welcome drug amidst my teenage angst-filled years. Ten miles? 15 miles? All felt peaceful.

There is that impulse to run. The sun is rising here in Chicago, the crickets are making their final chirps, and the paperboy hasn't yet arrived. I want to run. Tonight is my weekly butt kicking on the Wheaton College track, but I want to run now.

When I run, part of me is alive that is dormant the rest of the day. Although mostly silent, except for the grunts delivered to passing runners, I am inside myself shouting. Every step is glorious, a return to the childhood games of my youth -- as if I am again six years-old, running, laughing with Brian and Duane in my backyard on Meade Avenue -- when running was graceful, bliss made manifest.

Endorphins are still around, but I miss those longer of the long runs. There is something that happens with the longer runs that no endorphin can mimic. It is a serenity, found at any pace, having strode long enough to purge whatever ailed me emotionally before the run.

I sang when I ran. My voice was strong, bold. It was not held back by breathlessness. What beauty its sound lacks I made up for with vigor. Hymns. Old rock tunes. Silly songs from childhood. If I couldn't remember the line, I made it up.

Now, I remember fewer lines and grasp for air like a drowning man. Instead, words whisper out of me during a run that would make an emphysema patient smile smugly.

My feet clenched the rolling hills of the Palos Forest Preserves like a mountain goat. Zinging from foothold to foothold, setting only long enough to ricochet to the next bounding point.

Today, my ankles worry about turns on the flattest track, my back suggests rest is a better posture, and my knees wince with the slightest provocation.

The dilemma, now, over 100 days after beginning this endeavor, remains. I'm thinning and faster, and every so often, discover midstride a sense of rhythm and grace. It has yet to all come together. There has been no perfect run - I have on my memory dozens from 20 years ago, but none this year.

Perfection: when bliss and stride, speed and float, form and rhythm, distance and breath all join to enter me, surround me, push me and lead me.

Will all things converge? This is not something I can control. All I can do is set in place the possibility. Run hard, run long, run often. Then, maybe. Without the run, it will not, cannot happen.

I must run.

1 comment:

kerrinhardy said...

I really enjoyed reading your post!

Your article was submitted to appear in the Running Blog Carnival.

Issue #2008-04 came out today.