Thursday, July 17, 2008

The sights and sounds of the season

Hard to believe, but here I am, just a few days away from my favourite running event of the year. Adding to the excitement is the imminent arrival of family members coming from different parts of the country to participate in the race and spread some "Christmas cheer", complete with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings. We've figured-out that the latter weeks of July are more like a family Christmas get-together than, well, a December Christmas get-together, without the carols, of course. We simply refer to the next couple of weeks as “Christmas”, we're quite creative, I know.

The July race always seems to mark the end of another running season partly because of the "post-Christmas" blahs that set in when the race is over and everyone has gone home, and partly because the remainder of the year is usually spent running 5's and 10-k's right through to New Year's Eve. This year's a little different what with a half marathon on the docket for October, but aside from that, I’ve been looking back at the year that was since I last ran my favourite July race.

This season didn’t start off so well. In August of last year a rather rude introduction to a piriformis muscle and its refusal to play nice with a sciatic nerve knocked me out of running commission for three months and had me questioning my ability to return to running at all. But I squeezed some lemonade out of that lemon and took advantage of the downtime to set some weight-loss goals, map out a plan for the months that were ahead and look at my running in an entirely different way. Running was no longer an adversary, it became a best friend. From that point up until today, my running has never been stronger. Sure, being lighter has helped but I credit this eight-month surge on a different way of thinking that has helped to strengthen my mind allowing me to challenge my running fears head-on. Consider it training for the brain.

Running for me is no longer about foot-strikes, shortness of breath and profuse sweating, although all three still seem to follow me wherever I run. Rather running has become a moment of pure enjoyment from start to finish, whether a twenty minute jaunt or a two-hour journey. I’m guessing that most runners never reach this state - I can think of just a couple of others I know who have, I can think of many others who have not. The lesson I've learned over the last little while is this:

As in life, when it comes to running, we can control just about every situation based simply on the way we choose to approach it.

If you fear a hill, it will eat you up.
If you loathe the heat, it will melt you.
If you cringe at the distance, it will get longer.
If you set unrealistic goals, you will fail.

So change your approach. Clear your mind, put one foot in front of the other and enjoy every foot-strike; that's running in its purest form and your ability to do so is the gift you've been given.

Merry Christmas. Now pass the salt meat.

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