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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Red Bandana: A Runner's Dilemma

read the latest: Red Bandana: Get Trained by an Olympian

I have been asked, per the title of my running blog, what is "The Runner's Dilemma"? I have on the right 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."

I am 44. I am no longer fast. I can longer run a far way without having to plan for the consequences. I can no longer expect to be near the front in a local 5K.

There were those great 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 Chicagoland, the birds are making their first chirps, and the paperboy hasn't yet arrived. I want to run. I want to run now, but today, I have a head cold.

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, and bliss was 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. There, I could see poplars in a hidden grove, willows by a pond only frogs and ducks could approach, and birch known only to deer.

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, 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.

But first, getting over a head cold.

Running Playlist Song of the Week
La Bamba – Richie Valens
Los Lobos covered this in 1987, renewing it as a complete classic. Even for those of us who do not speak Spanish, it is a sure sing-along while running. It has a kind of summer, sunny energy that will put more bounce in your stride.

"Para bailar la bamba
Para bailar la bamba se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia para mí para tí y arriba y arriba
Y arriba y arriba por tí seré, por tí seré, por tí seré"

Writer Anthony Trendl loves Monet, impressionism and guitar-driven rock. Contact me to send your favorite tips, songs, recipes, or to promote a road race. See

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