Saturday, September 4, 2010

In it

Today I'd like to talk about a concept that I struggle with quite a bit, and I'm sure I'm not alone here. That concept is sometimes referred to as being "in it," or "being in the moment." In other words, it's the act of focusing mentally on what you're doing at the present and not thinking about the past or the future.

As a marathoner, it's something that I felt like I had to learn how to do, otherwise I surely would have gone nuts or quit distance running.  For some part of my long runs, I let go of everything and just run.  I don't check my Garmin, I don't think about how far I've gone or how far I have left to go, I just look at what's around me and take it all in. Sometimes I do it on purpose, and sometimes it just happens. One of my most memorable "zone outs" occured between miles 8 and 11 of my first marathon.  I was just so taken with the energy of the day and the exuberance of the crowd around me that the minutes and the miles just didn't even mentally register.  I was at the top of the hill in Eden Park one minute and the next minute I was cruising down Erie Ave, and 3 miles had gone by without even feeling like any time had passed at all.

Being "in it" isn't always so easy though. There have been many, many runs where I'm spending most of the run 1.) checking my watch, 2.) dwelling on things that happened in the past or 3.) worrying about something in the future.  Sometimes I'm in a rush to get somewhere right after my run, sometimes I'm worried about the weather.  I'm hot, I'm cold, I'm soggy, my right calf is sore.  Whatever it is, I'm not fully enjoying the experience.  It makes me mad that I do that, because where a lot of people I know like running, or feel obligated to run, or even hate it but still do it, I love running.  I love running so much that when I'm driving in my car and I see someone running along the road, I get jealous.  I look at people who are running when I'm not running the same way a little kid does when another little kid is licking a lollipop and he doesn't have one.  So when a day like today comes along--perfect weather, no where to be all day, nothing too pressing on my mind--it's time to get "in it."

I planned to get up at 7 a.m. and run as I usually do in the summer to avoid the daytime heat, but the weather forecast called for 70s all day, so I figured there was no harm in rolling over and snoozing a little longer.  My cat got nervous and started meowing and pawing at me, as if to remind me that "we never sleep in like this."  By 8:30, I grumbled, "Okay, Rocky, I'm up. Are you satisfied?"  He clearly was, as he lay across the bottom of the bed licking his paw with delight.  (Apparently his plans for the morning were rather less ambitious then mine.)

I got dressed, ate a Kashi granola bar, downed some water, and headed across the river to Lunken Airport.  I wore my Garmin, but I really didn't need it--I had decided on running 10 miles today, which is exactly two loops around the Lunken trail.  I actively decided that I was going to enjoy the run, and not pay attention to how far I had gone or how far I had to go.  The weather was perfect--cool and breezy, and this particular route doesn't have any hills or traffic intersections, so my attention could stay focused on enjoying each moment of the run. 

During loop 1, I did some people watching.  I chuckled as I passed a beefcake guy in his 40s running while lifting what appeared to be at least 10-lb handweights. "Dude, that's hard-core," I thought.  On the other hand, I felt accomplished as I easily breezed past two pear-shaped 40-something ladies huffing and puffing as they poked along in their floral capri pants.  Then I felt my pre-cougar years coming on as I noticed two guys in their early 20s who ran past me smelling like a heavenly blend of Axe deodorant spray and whatever fabric softener their mom used when she washed and folded their gym shorts. "You are way too old for them, Gab," I reminded myself.  And all of a sudden, I was done with loop 1 and stopping at the car for some water.  I brought a pack of Gu, but decided I didn't need it, and quickly locked up the car and headed out for loop 2.

During loop 2, I really focused on the run itself.  I was developing a little soreness in my knees and had a blister that was forming on the inside of my right foot (time to get new shoes).  But, I reminded myself not to get caught up in the nagging pain.  Instead, I thought about how God gave me these two working legs, these healthy lungs and this beautiful day.  I headed back to the car after a successful loop 2, and looked back on the 10 miles I had just covered with ease. Today was a good day.  Today, I was "in it."

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