Archive for August, 2012

Gratitude. It’s what’s for breakfast.

Posted on August 31, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I don’t always jump out of bed with a happy smile on my face.  Some mornings I don’t even want to roll out and frown.   I have my share of days when I dread getting out of bed, and sometimes I even dread the thought of running.

But one of the things I love about running is the remarkable way it transforms my attitude, usually from cranky to grateful.  Most morning runs are like that.  My time outside results in more than the physical benefits I get from running.  Running shows me gratitude.

By the end of my run, I usually have a mental picture of all the things I am grateful for.  Some of them look like this:

G    od. For making me. Able.

R    obert, my boyfriend.

A    ll my family and friends.  Even the cranky ones.

T    oday, because it’s all I have for certain.

I     ce cream.

T    omorrow, because with it comes promise and hope.

U    rsa Minor.  Or pretty much any constellation.

D    ogs.  Mine:  Smaug and Queequeg.

E    ars to hear. Eyes to see.

Does running do the same thing for you? What are you grateful for?

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What Running Could Teach a Girl

Posted on August 24, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I want to show girls how running teaches them things that can change their lives.

I hear that sentiment a lot as I talk with women who want to become coaches or other volunteers for Girls on the Run.  I smile every time because I understand just what they mean.  Now.

There was a time, however, when hearing such a thing struck me as completely ridiculous.  How could running teach a person about life?  All it seemed to teach people was how to sweat a lot and injure muscles and ligaments I had never heard of.  How does limping through life with wet socks and undergarments teach anyone anything useful about living? Sheer craziness, I thought.

Until I ran.  Now, I am a runner.

Did you notice the way I phrased that?  I am a runner.  I did not say that I became a runner, or that I learned to run, although both statements are true.  Instead, I chose a phrase that defines a present, permanent, pervasive state of being.  You could almost call it an inhabitation.  Now, it is quite natural for me to say this:  I am a runner.  For a long time, it was not.

I often think about why that is the case.  People frequently ask me if I am a runner, and it always startles me.  For some reason, I don’t expect it to show.  I know that many runners have identifiable physiques, as do jockeys and sumo wrestlers, but I don’t think it’s the association with a particular body type that surprises me.

Maybe it’s because for me running is not about the body anymore.  It’s about the soul.  And to ask if I’m a runner means that in some strange way the most private part of me has been made public.  A clearly unsettling prospect for anyone.  Unsettling, and life changing.

Running didn’t show me that I had a soul (I’d like to believe it was already there), it made me understand that what I needed to succeed in this life—what I needed to make healthy and loving choices, to be strong and confident and at peace—was already there inside me.  Running helped me to tap into it and pull it out, unfold it and put its pieces together, like the kite you might get in your Easter basket, ultimately billowing high above the earth but tethered to you by a string.

And that’s what these volunteers want the girls to see.  That they already have at least the pieces of everything they need to live a happy, healthy life right there inside them.

If they can get the girls to take just one step, to move forward just a little, the girls will learn to trust the voice they hear inside when they run.  Eventually, the girls will run into themselves.

And maybe some of them will one day say, I am a runner.

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Anger Management, or how running could save the world

Posted on August 17, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts for a week or so.  Not physically—I’ve been doing a lot of strength training, circuits, and swimming—but mentally.  Emotionally. Spiritually. Whatever you want to call the blend of those other essences that make us who we are.  Something simply hasn’t been right.

I don’t like it when something isn’t right and I can’t identify it.  I feel it in my diaphragm, mostly, that space between the stomach and the heart, both of which are inevitably effected, like someone has been playing lawn darts in there and abandoned them where they stuck, and I’m left walking around dragging daggers behind me.

I’ve spent so much time in the gym these past two weeks that until this morning I haven’t been outside to run—just run and nothing more—for nearly 10 days.  So yesterday, I set out from my house before dawn, alone.  My favorite time and way to run.  I always say that, always remember it, know it in my head, but I believe I actually forget the real reason why I love it until I’m out there running.

When I set out alone in the wee hours, I dragged the darts behind me.  The heaviness made me angry. I didn’t realize this until I was about a mile and a half down the road, looked up from my reverie, and thought, how’d I get here already?  I felt my legs moving fast and my body standing stiff and tall and I recognized that it was the quickness of anger that moved me.

But angry at what? is what I wanted to know.  It’s been a good week—all seems right with the world, on the whole—and I couldn’t place the anger.  So I kept running, letting my anger and the darts propel me down my path, until an amazing thing happened.

Somewhere between miles 2 ½ and 3, the darts fell away and my anger dissipated.  Why?  Because somehow, simply in the act of running, I found an answer.  The issue that had twisted me all out of sorts had a name.  Anger wasn’t the real issue, it was a symptom, and I could suddenly identify what it was that had been bothering me.  I didn’t yet have a solution, but the issue finally had a name.

This, I was overjoyed to remember, not only in my head, but in every limb and organ in my body, is why I run.  Alone. Before dawn.

There is nothing more therapeutic than pounding the pavement, letting whatever it is that ails you have the space to actually ail.  By the end of my 5 mile run, I knew what the problem was and how to address it.  What a relief.

And what a reminder.  I need to run alone before dawn more often.  Simply to keep clear and balanced.

Now, if we could get the whole world running, imagine what kind of problems could be solved.

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What Would Barbie Do…in the Olympics?

Posted on August 10, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

from Economic Times, India Times

I love the Olympics.  And although I root for the USA in every event they participate, I have to admit that what I watch for is not necessarily nationality, it’s ability.  The athletes who make any Olympic team are extraordinary. Watching them gives me goosebumps at the least, and sometimes brings me to tears.  The perfection and grace of movement in rowing, diving, sprinting, pole vaulting, gymnastics is simply stunning, particularly since the athletes make what they’re doing look so effortless. It’s easy to forget all the blood, sweat, and years, all the training and discipline and sacrifice that lead to this one event. It blows me away.

So when I heard comments about Gabby Douglas’s hair, I was, well, perplexed.  Here is a woman who won the gold medal in the gymnastics all-around event and is a member of the U.S. team that won a gold medal—the first team gold for the U.S. since 1996—and people are talking about her hair?

It gets better.  Some people are actually calling some Olympic women athletes fat.  That’s right.  Olympic athletes—some of the fittest people on earth—fat.   It doesn’t seem to matter that they’re bodies are conditioned to support them in their chosen field.  It doesn’t seem to matter that many of them set or break records.  What makes the news is that some swimmer or sprinter doesn’t look as “fit” as in the last Olympics.  Or that another one is “carrying too much weight.”

And we wonder why so many girls have eating disorders or body image issues when even the fittest of us are scrutinized as if we were a side of Kobe beef.

I wish I could say I am surprised, but, sadly, I am not.  This Olympics marks the first time women are competing in every event, and from every country.  This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX in the U.S., the law that opened the door for women’s participation in sports where they did not have access before.  Undoubtedly, more women are competing at a higher caliber because of the opportunities afforded by this law, yet those discussions and those women are not what’s making the news.

Perhaps coincidentally, another story making the news this week has to do with Barbie, the 53-year-old who never ages.  Now, I played with Barbie as a kid.  She usually teamed up my brother’s GI Joes to battle the evil Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots.  But it never occurred to me to see her form as an aspiration. In my mind, that would have been like trying to force myself into the shape of a pine tree or something equally ridiculous. I just wasn’t made that way, and, alas, I lacked the Wonder Twins super powers.

Model Katie Halchishick decided to make a point this week.  She marked her body with dotted lines, the way a plastic surgeon marks bodies before rearranging them.  The lines correspond to what a Barbie doll would look like in real life.

Scary. Unnatural.  Those are only two words that come immediately to mind.

Yet the figure and hair and makeup of Barbie is what some people seem to want to see soaring over the vault or flying across the pool at the Olympics.  But with a body like that, what, exactly, could Barbie hope to do in any athletic event, much less at the Olympics?  Her thin little arms couldn’t support her on the uneven bars.  Her skinny little waist could never contain the strong core muscles to lift her body over the hurdles.  And that scrawny (scary) neck?  It doesn’t appear that it would hold her head up high enough to see the crowd.

When I see someone like sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross moving like the wind across the track, her muscular body rippling with the effects of all that training, and then hear someone ask, what’s up with her hair, I can’t decide whether to laugh or scream or cry.

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What Makes Us Ready to Listen?

Posted on August 3, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This week my boyfriend decided he likes running.  He never really liked it before now for a variety of reasons, including debilitating knee pain, which would make me not want to run either.  But this week he thought he’d give it another shot.  What motivated him to try to run?  Not me.  (I know, can you believe it?)  Nope, it was timing.

Robert has a longtime friend who he doesn’t see much anymore, though they keep up through Facebook.  His friend absolutely LOVES to run, and posts about it regularly.  A few days ago, this friend posted something that caught Robert’s attention.

He said he runs because he can, and one day he may not be able to.

Now, I know this particular message has been out there in many forms from many sources for many years.  It’s one of those things we hear repeatedly, and maybe don’t pay too much attention to. But then one day something clicks. We pay attention.  We don’t just hear the message.  We process it.  Why?  Timing.

I don’t know what else is going on in Robert’s mind that made him process the message differently this time.  But that’s the beautiful thing about our subconscious mind.  It’s always working on something, secretly, even when we’re asleep.  I’ve taken to thinking of this part of my mind as a little cellar, dark and dank and growing all kinds of stuff, with little elves running around in there, creating things, or at least tending to the heaps of things already growing.  When the creation is ready, the elves crack open the cellar door and hand it out to me. Then, it’s up to me to do with it what I will.

What Robert chose to do with his reprocessing was to run, to at least give it another try.  Because it finally occurred to him that right now, he can.  Maybe in a year or two or twenty, he won’t be able to.

Maybe he realized that ability is a gift, a present of the present moment.  How wonderful to use it as it’s meant to be used.

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