What I find amazing is just how many thoughts can travel through your mind when you’re out on a run…sans iPod.
Upon my return to Michigan in early June, I promptly drowned my faithful purple shuffle (2nd generation- BEST generation!), Grimace, after a run that got so hot and humid, I was practically required by runner’s law to sprint through a series of sprinklers. Poor Grimace tried to recover, but despite my repeated efforts to cheer him up (as well as scare him into working again by yelling the occasional obscenity and making absurd threats to the inanimate object), the little guy could no longer get recognized by my iTunes or charge properly.
I have since got my hands on another 2nd generation shuffle (Ice Man, clad in a cool, steely blue), but that month and a half of going out for runs without even the possibility of having ACDC rock me through the middle of a long run, The Boss to kick off my warm up or Brit Brit to move me along at lackluster points gave me a renewed (and throwback) appreciation for the welcomed isolation that running can provide. Granted, not every run is bettered by the absence of a soundtrack, but some of those mid-distance runs that take you out the door to the roads/trails can make you appreciate running for exactly what it is: one person, all alone, who is still part of a much larger whole of a special breed of people, just moving forward, feeling every step, embracing the ache in your muscles, knowing that what you’re doing at that very moment is making you better as an athlete and, hell, likely as a human being.
Without trying to get too philosophical on you all (y’all to all you Southerners and Texans), I feel compelled to say that inherently, as human beings who inevitably deal with a variety of stressers every day, we seek solace, clarity and calm in a huge variety of ways. Peace of mind can be a beast of a thing to try to find, but I count myself lucky enough to have some of it every day. While I am a person with relatively boundless energy (once called the Energizer Bunny on crack), I used to just go 90mph all the time without ever stopping to process and really feel what I was doing- and not just with running. It took a few major changes for me to slow things down at least a little and take a couple of moments for myself each day. Those moments take on many different forms (sometimes it’s throwing myself on the couch without reading material, wandering aimlessly around a store, or driving without the radio) but I find that I really need them. For too long I was on auto-pilot, which was by design, and it’s no surprise that that kicked off some of my most unhealthy years in running and in life.
I met up with an old friend the other night and our long-overdue conversation covered everything from the light and fluffy to the dark and heavy, but somewhere in the middle, requirements of successful relationships came up and the common requirement we had was alone time.
When I think of alone time, for some reason running never enters my mind first because it’s something that I do so often, it’s built into my daily life and it’s also a job. It did, however come to my friend’s mind first. “Running is my time to myself. I love it,” he said and it caused me to pause and think about the many days where I don’t realize just how much clarity I get from a run until it’s over and I have magically solved a problem or worked out some underlying issue that’s plagued me. It comes back to the secret of the solo run. While running is beneficial for so many reasons, and music can really get you moving (guilty again today when I hammered through what should have been a relaxed 7 miler) sometimes you just need to hang up the ear buds and let your steps take you along at their own pace… not Nicki Minaj’s.
SIDENOTE: For those of you who might be curious as to my racing whereabouts in the past couple of weeks, my stint in Canada was a so-so successful campaign back on the track. My Zoom Victorys didn’t exactly carry me to their namesake right away, but I was second in the 1,500m at the Pre Jerome meet where I was pleased with my finishing kick after a fartlek-type race, of which I had to lead roughly 800m. 2 days later at the Victoria International Track Classic, I ran a 1,500m with which I wasn’t particularly pleased, but had a reality check when my coach reminded me that I was injured for 9 weeks this Winter/Spring and missed 3 training cycles of event-specific training and jumped right into race prep. Basically I’m 9 weeks behind and don’t have a prayer of catching up this season, so it was up to me to put together a season in which I could remain competitive and utilize the fitness I was gaining. Enter: road racing.
Road racing is fun. It’s typically super relaxed and more casual than track races (though there are usually still some nerves in there) and you’re more likely to have casual conversation with your competitors before the start, rather than doing most of the pre-race stuff solo. I ran the Golden Mile in Traverse City on July 9th, where I was second to a former U-M teammate, Katie Jazwinski, in a time that wasn’t super fast (there are 4 very tight turns, but it was SO spectator friendly, read: loud and cheery) but still had me walking away feeling pretty good. I had raced the Golden Mile two years prior and had really enjoyed it, so I was eager to come back and thrilled again with how well the race was organized.
Fast-forward two weeks and you’ll find me at the front of the pack avenging my loss to Katie at the Ryan Shay Mile in Charlevoix, MI during the Venetian Festival on July 23. This race is run in memory of Ryan Shay, a native Michigander, who passed away suddenly during the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials in NYC. The race is pretty straight and at 3/4 of a mile there’s a large downhill that will either make your legs sting and cause a VERY long final 150m or give you the momentum you need to carry you to the finish. I was fortunate enough to feel the latter and ran 4:40.00. I mean, come on. Not 4:39.99? Nope. I’m not too torn up about it because I felt great during the race (better than I had 2 weeks before) and had the kick I needed, as well as a long weekend with my best friend Lindsey, a fabulous host named Kitty, who is the most hilarious, energetic and crass 70 year old you’ll ever meet, as well as a trip to Frankenmuth and Birch Run on the way home. I think I really needed a race to feel as good as this one did, so I’d consider it a win on so many levels.
Feel free to enjoy the visual snack below that covers my past couple of weeks on the running scene through photos. Some of them come from http://www.runmichigan.com, the others, well?, from a bunch of fabulous people.
The Golden Mile pictures appear to only be available in a gallery, so feel free to check them out here.
Here’s a link to the Ryan Shay Mile finish photo for your viewing pleasure. Running pictures are so pretty. And we all know that sometimes running can make you dumb for about 20-40 minutes after you’re done with a hard effort, so forgive parts of the interview…