I recently picked up a new book.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is novelist Haruki Marukami’s chronicle of a year spent examining the parallels and intersections of the two major disciplines of his life: running and writing.
As a deeply introspective person, I appreciate a window into a similar person’s mind.
Something about the rhythmic solitude of step after step points a telescope into the deep spaces of a person, promoting serious question-and-answer periods in the midst of rigorous physical demands.
In fact, I quit training for a marathon in the fall of 2005 because the long distances allowed my brain to ponder the unsavory experiences of a nasty breakup–cutting me to the bone again and again with every session on the road.
There’s something to be said, though, for the meditative nature of a run.
After reading ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer and Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, I’ve pushed myself out onto the pavement again. I’m rebuilding the daily habit of strapping on my Vibram FiveFingers KSO’s and–for the time being–working on refining my running style to be as efficient and effortless as possible.
Yesterday, I decided to take it slow.
Tuesday morning, I burst through the woods of a nearby park at a pretty good clip. I had a brief period to squeeze in a run before work and decided to increase my stride length to see if I could maintain the proper foot speed.
To put it plainly, it felt awesome. My legs seemed to be moving without much prompting from my head, sweeping me along faster than I’d anticipated.
However, since I had to get ready for work, I’d forgotten to budget a few minutes to stretch and I paid the price.
My tense calves groaned at me to go easy and cement my cadence further as I closed the front door behind me yesterday evening.
I focused intently on “one-two-one-two” very well for about 1.5 miles, aided by the metronome track I created using Audacity. I loped along unconcerned with speed, using short strides to perfect technique instead of racing the world.
After ten minutes, I shifted over to my “Rock Exercise” playlist.
My custom is to concentrate on keeping rhythm using my own tunes after a “mental warm-up.” I’ll run to music long before I’ll ever stride through a race with only a droning beep in my ears. And, regardless of the exercise, I always look for a thumping beat to energize me.
First up on the MP3 player was “The Little Things” by Danny Elfman, then eventually “Your Time Has Come” by Audioslave and “Elevation” by U2.
I felt a pull to stretch my legs a bit and see how much ground I could cover as Bono blared in my ears.
I resisted at first.
I was intent on holding tempo and–being in the hilliest part of the park–concerned the terrain would upset my gentle “right-left-right-left” canter.
Then I felt an instinctive push to “Let it go.”
Thankfully, I trusted the impulse.
My body kicked into gear and just went. Whatever happened would happen and I was content knowing so. My mind became a jockey riding a thoroughbred body at full gallop.
My soul began to sing.
I hit a chorus and nearly screamed “El-ev-a-tion!” at the top of my lungs, barely holding back so as to avoid disturbing other visitors.
I cut through the park like a flash of lightning through a Spring sky.
Tight corners were negotiated easily. I waved cheerfully to every lifeform I sped past. I simultaneously smiled brightly as my eyes welled with tears.
I felt “one” again.
The first time, in December of 2006, I’d been overcome with emotion at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I walked through the doors and meandered around until my heart suddenly swelled up.
I had managed to wander into God’s presence.
In an instant, I became fully aware of a long-forgotten truth. Unlike any church before or since, I was fully “in His house,” no longer alone or hurting.
It shook me to the core.
I stepped outside and wept as I typed text messages to close friends and family about “the most beautiful building” I’d ever seen. As undeniable as the sun rising in the East, I reconnected ever briefly with what created me.
I can only describe it as a boundless and timeless ecstasy.
In all its power, it brings forth immediate and disembodied humility. You understand with utter certainty the complete failure of your frail little form in representing your immenseness.
I believe the French call this joie de vivre, the unending and uncontainable happiness of life. It is being–the thundering outflow of the eternal force of love and creation.
It’s an unforgettable spiritual homecoming.
And for a blissful minute or two yesterday afternoon, I was there again, playing like a child as I flew along the sidewalk.
I went out for a run and dissolved into the wind.
On The Road Again
The Power of Everything
The Power of Nothing