Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Running List: 6 Rules of the Road

I've never run a marathon- not yet, at least. Still, my love of running stretches across many years and miles and through lots of well-worn sneakers. I'd characterize it as an on-again, off-again love affair, usually contingent upon the weather, and at this time of year, I'm completely smitten. In my head, my jaunts along the Charles River, around Castle Island, and on Cape Cod tend to get philosophic, given the scenery and newly breaking weather. I was feeling particularly reflective on Monday, following the Boston Marathon, so I started making a mental list of the life lessons I've learned as a runner and enthusiastic spectator of other runners (yes, friends, that was me, who scaled a lamp post on Comm. Ave to get a better view as you trekked past, en route to the finish line).

Lesson #1: Running from your problems is healthy. I started running from mine around the time that problems loom pretty large, freshman year of high school. At the time, I didn't go far- a couple miles to start- but it was enough to provide some much needed distance from the stuff that made me anxious or glum (also known as, being a teenager, come to find out). I can't recall what I used to think about, but I know that by the time I returned home, most of what bugged me had dissipated. I still run to sort out my thoughts and find it to be a meditative process. I don't actually believe that I'm running from my troubles as much as I am hurdling over them, learning to leave them far behind . . . until I am just a tiny speck waving at them from a distance.

Lesson #2: Tread lightly upon the Earth. If you run among nature (i.e. outdoors), chances are you contemplate it on occasion. Maybe you're not drafting sonnets in your melon as you hightail it through the Common, but you've, no doubt, soaked in a sunset or two, observed new leaves or blossoms, or inhaled deeply while passing said blossoms. I find that running and walking are great ways to connect to the Earth, appreciate it, and revisit how we can help preserve it. This weekend, I used my old running shoes to help protect the environment- by recycling them, of course! Simply drop off your unwanted kicks at Niketown. Any brand is permissible, Nike or not. It's a small gesture, but you'll feel lighter for having done it- so light, in fact, that it might be tough to discern whether you're running faster due to the new sneakers you'll inevitably buy or the good deed afforded by your old ones.

Lesson #3: Invest in the success of others. Boston's current reign as the best sports city on the planet is well documented (Take that, NYC Gal). However, while watching several friends and thousands of strangers achieve their goals of running the marathon, I was reminded of how much we excel as spectators as well. At any crucial point along the marathon course, people watching the race become completely invested in the success of total strangers. If a runner begins to cramp and visibly lose heart in Kenmore Square, the entire block erupts in cheers to help fuel him/her along. It's an amazing demonstration of intention and energy. Suddenly, people find themselves wholly committed to helping unknown, sweaty, and near delirious runners dig deep into their own reserves and draw out some remnant of energy to propel them to the end. What's more, the marathoner isn't the only beneficiary. Consider: what if you treated the dreams of others (even strangers) with as much care and concern as you do your own?

Lesson #4: Share the road. Sure, some days tunnel vision is comforting and necessary. We gaze straight ahead and preserve our energy by avoiding the distractions around us. Yet, it can also be reinvigorating to share this portion of your day with others. Wave to your neighbor retrieving the paper; chuckle at the disobedient dog who insists on following you, not his owner; smile at a fellow athlete braving the early morning hours or relishing the last ones of dusk. Sharing enhances our lives. We learned it in pre-school; we just tend to forget it as adults.

Lesson #5: Boost your own mood. You can seek external forces, but, ultimately, "Happiness is an inside job." Call it endorphins, a "runner's high," or the satisfaction of fitting into your favorite jeans; running makes you happy. Don't believe me? Try it. A total rookie? Even better! Start by running 5 minutes and walking 10. The next time out, run 10; walk 5. Build up your running minutes steadily. Soon, you'll feel your confidence do the same.

Lesson #6: Keep it simple. Lots of sports require lots of gear. Running is as simple and pure as it gets. Buy great shoes; get moving.

Congratulations to my friends Jennelle, Jack, Chris, Mike, Matt, Kevin, Jason, Di, Amy, and everyone on the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Running Team.


Jack said...

Hey OM Gal,

You're right on with your endorsement of running. And I'm sure I speak for all the friends you listed (some of whom you recruited to run with DFMC) when I say we could not agree more

The first cut is the deepest, the darkest hour is just before dawn and the first step is the hardest.

Get your shoes on and out the door - the rest will take care of itself.

Cheers - Jack

Anonymous said...

any good running music tips?!