Archive for October, 2013

I Need a Sign

Posted on October 18, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

steep-hill-sign

Life would be much nicer if we all carried signs.  Not road signs, but the kind spectators do in races:  “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”  Or “I’m proud of you, Perfect Stranger.”

My friend Jill manages the blog Best Race Signs.  People send her pics of race signs from all around the country.  Some are inspirational; most are simply funny. I read all of them because no matter what else is going on in my day, these signs make me smile.  They also make me wish life really were more like a race.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the metaphor they choose for life.  Is life really a race?  What if it’s a test or simply one big party?  My metaphor changes from time to time. Lately, I see life as an endurance race. However, there’s one thing missing:  The signs.

Can you imagine walking down the sidewalk, driving in your car, or sitting on the subway and glancing up from your reverie to see a complete stranger holding up a sign:  “You’re the sh*t,” for instance.  Who wouldn’t be motivated by that and think, Well, heck, maybe I am. Maybe I can <fill in the blank> after all?

And wouldn’t it be nice if during our darkest hour we could lift our eyes from the road ahead, just for a moment, to find a sign of encouragement: “..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” let’s say, or “The voice in your head that says you can’t do this is a liar.”

I can see how carrying signs might be inconvenient. Nevertheless, I think it would make for a much happier world.  It might make people achieve more or go for their dreams.  At the very least, it would make people smile. And on those days when someone feels like they’re running up a steep hill in the dark, what would be wrong with that?

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No Sweat

Posted on October 4, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The-Atlas-Statue-At-Rockefeller-Center

I’ve always associated endurance and perseverance with sweat. Atlas holding up the heavens with his shoulders. Sisyphus forever pushing a boulder up a mountain.

As runners, we know perseverance, endurance.  We train to keep going, to run a little farther, a little faster, a little longer, to see if we can’t improve our form, our distance, our time.  We persist through heat, rain, humidity, cold, snow, up big hills and across wide expanses of open terrain, under stars and moon and sun.  A sweaty endeavor indeed.  When we reach our goal, we have physical proof that we have persevered. We have endured.

Running develops these traits in us, as many runners will tell you, and they extend into so many areas of our lives. The past couple of weeks I’ve learned a new application of perseverance, one that is not so sweaty.

Stillness. To wait and do what at first seems like nothing.  And nothing is a difficult thing to do. For all that running teaches us to endure, it should also teach us to endure not-running, not taking time but giving it, to accomplish those things that can only be achieved in stillness.

For me, the not-running started with a sprained ankle two weeks ago, but the lesson in persevering through stillness didn’t occur to me until much later.  Runners lament not-running while non-runners look on quizzically. They don’t quite understand the stomach-churning anxiety that accompanies it.  I don’t always either, to be honest. It’s just running, after all, and although I am a runner, I am so much more.  Still.  When a part of my identity is suspended indefinitely, it’s disquieting, to say the least.

But, I have found, if I’m quiet and let it be, if I can persevere through the stillness and simply wait, I improve in a different way:  I develop an internal patience and peace.  And, given time, I can say, no sweat.

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