Monday, May 25, 2009

Running

I did a "long run" this morning -- for me that means over 3 miles, not really long at all! I have to admit that I am such a wimp when it comes to feeling pain. I hate feeling discomfort/pain, and I have to talk myself through it. For real runners out there, I know it's hard to imagine needing much prodding to get through 40 minutes; but for newbies, it's how you get through the initial training at all.

This morning was just another hot, humid day in South Texas. I didn't get started till after 8:30, a late start even for me. The route I use at home has a hill at the end, which I really don't mind. It concentrates my mind and I have a real enemy to focus on -- the hill -- instead of vague complaints coming from various parts of my body.

So the hard part today was getting to the halfway point and back to the hill, pictured at left (that's me and my son Andrew). The hill doesn't look as impressive as it feels!

At that point I'm almost home, so I know I just have a few more minutes of running and then I can collapse if I need to. It helps that I've been training for more than a few months now, and I can honestly say, this is nothing! I know I've suffered worse on this same course!

If I don't have my music, ooh -- now that's real suffering. I make myself leave the music behind sometimes, just so I can focus on my breathing without distractions. Then I can also focus on all my aches and pains, and the feeling that I'm just about out of air, without distractions.

So why would anyone voluntarily do an activity that makes them long for the moment they can end it? Pretty much every time I'm going for more than 10 minutes, I want to stop running before I plan to, but I haven't so far. The one day I really needed to stop, I didn't. I was afraid if I ended the forward momentum of my pathetic jog, I wouldn't be able to make it home at all! And I sure didn't want to crawl home, so I somehow kept going.

Running is good practice for future suffering -- maybe if I ever need to go through chemo, or just growing old, or living with chronic pain.

Today, I thought about how my suffering is symbolic of the human struggle. Of course, that made me feel pretty great. Like Rocky! Every song on my MP3 echoed this struggle in some way: yearning for fame, to go home again, to run down the dream, or the awesome instrumentals from "Pirates of the Caribbean" that say it all with music.

We are all striving in some way, or else spending lots of time and energy (and drugs, usually) in a futile attempt to avoid the pain. I would rather face the pain of life and go through it, and know that it is as honestly gotten as the sweat on my face. Everyone who has done something worthwhile knows how it feels to hit that wall and think: this is it, I just can't go on any more. And then to get through it, to finish it anyway -- it's thrilling.

When I got in today, my face was red as a beet and a little scary-looking. But -- good news! I felt fine, after I finished rubbing my oh-so-hot body down with ice cubes. So I guess this really was a challenging run for me, and I wasn't just being my usual whiny self. What runners quickly learn is that if they overtrain, they will pay the price all day long, not just during the run. But my body is adjusting to the demands I am placing on it. I'm not worn out, not running to the bathroom (much), and not too achy either.

I have often had a fantasy of going somewhere in the world to do mission work -- someplace with desperate poverty, disease, lack of clean running water, you name it -- but if I ever did, I think I would be immediately felled by some tropical disease or dehydration. I would be so cranky as to be completely useless, because my body is accustomed to being so pampered. Five squares a day, lots of water, and don't you dare forget the caffeine!

I really know so little about human suffering. (Remind me I said that on my next run.)

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