I nearly didn’t go out today. My alarm went off, I got up, and made tea and toast for breakfast. All the while my mind debated between the voice wanting a leisurely morning and the other wanting to do my 6 K long run. Between the two yapping voices, while I enjoyed my toast with cheese and Scottish breakfast tea, a third entered my mind how about going out for a run with the 8:30 run club to make the leisurely morning more worthwhile? Both voices fell silent telling me to get dressed and go.
I arrived just as the 10 K Clinic left. Since my clinic is online it didn’t matter, but I needed to know the root. I waited patiently as the half-marathon crew poured over the route maps. I hoped the route would be easy, not physically easy, just enough to get to know my new area. I needed something easily memorized and my wish was granted.
“It’s a loop,” I said to the amusement of the clerk working at the counter “It’s just a loop.”
It’s also a loop I can remember. I made my way out, alone as usual, but at least I made my way out. As soon as my Garmin chirped to start my ten minute interval, I began my run. My body felt like it’s carrying two pianos strapped to each bum cheek, my heart beating so hard and loud it seemed to do it’s work outside of my chest. Slow down, said a voice sounding like one of my good running buddies, it’s a long slow day. Here’s something not discussed so often in running groups I encountered-the mind body connection.
A little while ago, I read about mindfulness meditation. It’s feeling aware of surroundings without judging or attaching. I felt around my body like someone searching a pocket, found a centre, and slowed down a little. I ran at a comfortable pace despite the piano-strapped-to-bum-cheeks feeling. OK, this is one street now where is that other one, I thought as trees, people walking dogs, and other runners passed by me. One particular home has a German shepherd in one yard, while his neighbours the Pyrenees and husky followed their buddy’s attention. I seen these dogs before walking home from work, or to the grocery store. Friendly dogs, no barking, just the curiousity canines display at something passing by on two legs.
“Hello beautiful,” I puffed “How is your day?”
The German Shepherd put his two paw on the fence, putting them down to follow me the length of his boundary. I don’t pet the dog, but he seemed a friendly hound. His friends the Great Pyrenees and the Husky, in the neighbouring yard, simply looked without letting out a bark. I admire their owners for well-behaved dogs, the type not barking at everything or anything.
“You guys are good dogs,” I remarked to see if I can talk between steps “You’re owners must feel very proud.”
No barks in reply as I moved away and down the street, hoping I can see street number two. After the first ten minutes of my ten and ones finished, my body seemed alright with the pace while I took a drink of water. Make sure you hands are up, open like you have a Pringle in each hand.
True story. When I trained for the Hypothermic Half Marathon a few years ago, the clinic instructor had us running outside, a Pringle chip in each hand, coaching us to hold on to the Pringle without breaking it. (I am amazed she didn’t add not eating it to her instructions.) The objective was to not drop the arms, or clench the hands, allowing blood flow without that swelling one gets in the hands near the end of a run. Mine did break, but held on with the softest touch I can manage and the lesson stayed with me ever since.
After keeping my hands soft, I worked on making sure not to slouch, keeping my shoulders back, my head up like a string pulled it up. You will run strong, coached the inner voice, there is not way in God’s green earth you will come in slouched like those survivor runners people talk about. Yes sir,I replied although the voice sounded a lot like mine. The next interval felt like a piano held onto to me and I could see street number two coming up to make my left. Despite an overcast sky, I felt like a sunrise if such a thing can classify itself as an emotion.
I didn’t bring my Ipod, but my mind called up its own play list. What it decided to play pleasantly surprised me. It wasn’t some new dance tune, not a Flo Rida rap in sight. This ran through my head:
(Note: I am not a classical music expert and this part of Ode to Joy is a small part of a much larger, still beautiful, piece.)
Hanging my left, I ran past a golf course with men teeing off for the day. It served as a reminder Winnipeg seemed to come out of hibernation as cyclist wished me good morning, more runners ran past me, and street number three tantalizing within my sight. Keeping going, gently said my inner coach, watch your posture. Finish strong.
I hung my last left and saw the home stretch, street number three in the loop. The sun tried to break through, traffic hummed a little more, as I paid no mind to my Garmin. I kept my eyes on the stretch before me, counting down the blocks, until the inner play list made me remember sing these lyrics as a test:
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
How many times have I played ‘Defying Gravity’? According to my Itunes 17 times. Just enough to remember the rest, I mean actually sing them, with a lot left to power me forward. So the run ended in 51 minutes (did I mention I was slow) and this song finishing the loop. My advice to someone reluctantly doing anything active on an overcast day, pick your favourite song and try to belt it out. The neighbours may either encounter something stranger than someone singing, or already did.