Sunday, September 26, 2010

hitting stride

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
—Joan Didion, from "Why I Write"
This week I exchanged sleep for doing things. It was great (at least, until I collapsed this weekend). But I did do many things, among them having long talks with friends in New York and the Chi, making a brief WNUR return, starting a NEW BLOG, drinking spoiled milk, riding my bike all around town, dinner partying + photo perusing, and running.

This last item has got me particularly excited, as 10+ years ago I'd given up on ever being able to run seriously. Chronic stress fractures, vomiting, general psychic distress, etc—it'd become a very unpleasant thing that I avoided as much as possible, outside of conditioning drills (high school) and running down trains/buses/planes (post-hs). And my failure at "being a runner" was made worse by the fact that running is pretty much the same as breathing for my dad's side of the family: something you do naturally, without thinking (definitely without fretting), and which you only stop doing when your body shuts down completely.

[Unofficial family motto: Steve Prefontaine's "
A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts."] Christ on a cracker that's a lot to deal with.

Anyway, all of this exposition is meant to explain the shock/joy I felt on Wednesday, when I went outside to take my nightly pre-bedtime walk, and decided just to see what would happen if I ran instead.

And I ran the whole thing! All 3 miles of it! And I still had juice to spare at the end! All with little to no shin-pain, no puking, no worrying that I wasn't fast enough or strong enough or mentally tough enough. I just kept listening to Enrique and striding along—because my good old stride somehow showed up about 800m in, and didn't leave me again.

Later, after the initial elation (ooh endorphins) subsided, I laughed at myself for thinking that me running 3 miles was such a miracle. Number one, because 3 miles is really not that far, and number two, because for the past 9 months or so (and ramped up this summer post-illness) I have been very active. Obviously my cardiovascular system has become more efficient, maybe the most efficient it's ever been (whoa). I've been ready and able to run for awhile now, and the only thing holding me back was MYSELF: my own obsolete 14-year-old fears.

So what's the real story here, Joanie—why did I just spend 4 paragraphs writing a SELF Magazine Reader's Success Story about discovering my stride?

Oh, maybe because we forget that we can become who we wanted to be, when we relax into it; that we can grow stronger day by day, without noticing it; that we can actually teach old dogs new tricks and incorporate new identities. (I've been asked "are you an athlete?" at least 4 times in the past couple weeks, and I always laugh and say "no." Because I know people who are true athletes, and I don't have their gifts or their drive. But! But what if..., I've been thinking lately. What if I said "yes," and was okay with not being a perfect example. How many other things could I say yes to, if I weren't so afraid of being imperfect.)

And then there is also something about this image of me running alone through the city, past the towering spire of St. Michael's, out to the dark Lake, the wind shaking all the trees and the stoplights, lifting me off my feet and forward, alone and running and running and running.


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