Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Long May You Run

First off, I so enjoyed sharing some writing space with Kristen of Motherese last Friday, and reading the all the other guest entries added to the linky. Thank you all for playing along, and come back next Friday, when Sarah of Momalom will be holding court! On another note, come join me as I write at Five Minutes for Going Green today! Opinions always welcome!

I ran my first marathon relay this past weekend. (That’s when a team of three share the load of the 26.2 miles.) It’s not the furthest I’ve run in a race, but I think it may have been my fastest pace, post-children anyway.

This may have had something to do with the weather, and specifically, a desire to get out of it.

It was a wet one in northern California, to put it mildly. I spent the early hours of Sunday morning huddled under a portable shelter with a couple dozen other equally insane souls, all warming our hands with our breath and stretching calf muscles while an icy rain pelted down and we awaited our first leg runners of the Redding Marathon to arrive around a bend in the gravel river trail.

Before my teammate could tag out and send me on my hilly, gravelly way, I was soaked. And shaking a bit uncontrollably from the wet, windy cold, actually. But I didn’t mind the waiting (much), because honest-to-goodness truth?

I love to run.

I love the challenge and the health benefits but there’s something else…something organic and almost primeval in a dirt-under-your-fingernails sort of way that appeals to me (much as hiking with a pack on my back appeals to me, and sleeping under the stars, and tasting snow on my tongue). Running is nothing more or less than the human body in motion.

It’s beautiful. (Even when you’re not.)

Running is uncomplicated. Oh, you can make it complicated, with pacing and Garmins and wicking layers and qualifiers. And if I were more serious about it, I probably would. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It doesn’t have to be anything except lacing up a pair of shoes and hitting the road, allowing the muscles to loosen and the lungs to expand to their fullest and the sweat to bead and flow. And then allowing all the stress and chaos and expectations and worry that cling to you everyday to loosen its hold for just a little while.

And that‘s when running is more than a verb. It’s feet pounding earth pounding heart pounding blood. It’s that moment when the pace feels right: you quit shivering and worrying about the rain coming down in sheets and open your stride and soak it up. Literally, in this weekend’s case…socks, shoes, shirt…but if you’re a runner, you know I mean something more. You glance over at the supporters lining the course huddled under their umbrellas and hunched against the wind (bless their souls) and then you look up at the sky opening up to do its worst, and it can’t touch you. The rain might as well be mist and the wind is freaking welcome on your skin because you’re moving with it now and you’re warm and in that moment, you’re more than flesh and bone. You‘re oxygen and earth and H2O. You’re salt and matter.

You‘re elemental.

It’s magic. (And I don’t even run that fast or that far!) I talked about alchemy in this blog recently, and it occurs to me that this is it…this may be as close as we come: when the exhaustion and hunger and discomfort and even the weather that keeps you at bay every other day--indoors, in a coat, acting all civil--can’t hold you.

And that feeling doesn’t last, of course, but you chase it, because for the few miles it keeps pace with you, it feels pretty damn good.

(A little mood music, just for fun. Brought to you by Neil Young.)

Long may you run.*

*Wow, stop it, I mean it. Anybody want a peanut? (In other words, please pardon the excessive rhyme of those last few sentences!)

This post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped.
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