listening

Listening to one’s body. I don’t know if there is a more powerful thing we can do for ourselves. Everything lives in our bodies and it can tell us all we need to know about the state of our being. The thing is that we don’t often listen…we don’t often slow down enough to listen. We have so many gut, instinctual feelings; so many “sense of something” feelings and often times, we just let those “senses” just whiz on by. It takes practice to listen, to stop….to be willing to listen.

For the past 8 months or so, I’ve become better at listening to my body and those senses that come about in my quiet time. The slowing down has allowed me to have more clarity about many things in running, and life in general. It’s allowed me to really notice what feels good, what doesn’t, and so on…it may seem simplistic, but it’s not. I guess you could say, i’ve become more discerning in many areas of my life and i do consider this a good thing.

2 weeks ago I ran a short trail run and i wrote about it in my previous post. It was only 3-4 miles, but it was enormous in what it revealed. I recall feeling a little bit tired pre-run but as i wrote earlier, i truly felt this burning desire to simply be on the trail and in nature. I ended up having a fantastic time out there, experiencing my body free, unencumbered, loose and happy. I ran up, down and around the trails and sucked in the early evening, late summer air. I rounded a few higher bends and saw the golden hills below and off into the distance. They seem magical, inviting and pure. They are untouched innocence and they remind me of my small place in this world and they remind me of peace. They offer beauty and hope.

As I descend the final section which is less than 1 mile, i am at my most free…my stride lengthens, my smile widens and arms move swiftly. My chest expands as I run straight ahead, over hidden roots, dry dirt and crunchy leaves; around corners that make my body lean and feel childlike & giddy. I notice everything and nothing. I take it all in and let it go. What a lesson..i need it every.damn.day…..to let in and then let go. repeat. repeat.

When i finish the run, i am at a small hillside overlooking the town where i call home. A soft breeze blows and all seems quiet and peaceful out yonder on those small city streets. Everything seems ok. Right.

So….THAT is the kind of run that fills me up from head to toe and way beyond. As I was on a planned 20 mile training run this past Saturday (all on the road), my thoughts were very negative. “my legs are tired, heavy. i’m tired. i can’t even imagine running 10 right now, how am i going to do 20. Ok…just start, one foot in front of the other….” 2 miles later. “this sucks, i’m not having any fun. i don’t want to be running on all these streets right now. its so slooooow. ok, just walk for a bit and see how you feel…” .5 miles later, I started again and then stopped. I. was. done. I walked about 4 miles back to my car. I had lots of time to reflect in those 4 miles. As I reflected on my planned attempt at 45 miles, I realize I was not having any fun running on the road and the  run was supposed to be a celebration of my life…my 45 years of life…soon to come. My long runs lately all on the road have not been fun. they have been slow, irritating due to many traffic stops and uninspiring. That’s not the experience I want to have. I had originally planned the 45 to do on road because i thought it would be easier than trails and also i didn’t have enough time to train on trails. Also thought it would be easier for any potential help i would get in terms of crewing/support. So.

I’ve abandoned the idea of 45 on my 45th birthday. not because I don’t think i can do it, but because i don’t want to do it in the conditions i originally had planned. And, I am now not trained for trails so i can’t just switch the terrain with a few weeks left. I’m listening to my body and letting it go. I’m listening to me and letting it go. If this was 3 years ago, my mindset would have been…”no, you gotta do it…you gotta push through…” and i’m proud to say i don’t feel that way right now. I feel like I am doing myself a good service by listening and paying attention and being willing to see there is another way. I will plan another way to celebrate my life and of course, it doesn’t just have to be on my birthday….i truly believe we need to celebrate our lives on a daily basis as much as possible…in whatever way feels right and good for each one of us. We are all different and celebration looks different for everyone. The main thing for me, right now, is to act with intention and with what feels right.

On the flip side, I ran the same trail route 2 days ago and it was kinda a mini-disaster. I’ve been so stressed due to work that I could not even find solace in the run. That was unfortunate and then totally ok. Stress takes a HUGE toll on our bodies…way more than I think any of us realize. I was tired, but went to run anyway as I thought the movement and air would do me good. Well, I was just a mess. I stopped several times to walk and felt like i was just gonna breakdown in tears a few times….because i was just holding so much in. all the worry and stress and other stuff was just about to blow and it needed an outlet. When I finished and came to my ending spot, I let go. i just sat on the bench and cried. For all the stress i’ve been holding, for all the parts of me i want to be better that i’m struggling with, for the people in my life who are struggling, for the joy that i can find in one single second that can transform everything….for so much, for my own humanity…and this was the GIFT of this “run”. The gift of giving myself some time and space to just be. To let it be and then let go.

running is an entry into another world, a pathway to experiences that cannot always be articulated. whether you call them peak experiences or mystical events, runners continue to seek them. – George Sheehan

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