Icy Running

img_4775One of my goals has been to run more this year. I used to run a lot. I ran marathons and even completed the Vermont 50. That feels like a long time ago now. After back surgery and an early stroke and a few years of aging to boot, I got out of the habit. Not that I didn’t want to run, but I got injured more often and more easily, and running made me too reflective after going to such a dark place with a stroke. But now I am ready to get back to it.

When I was a frequent runner I would track my mileage. I did this for training purposes, of course. Should I get in a longer run this weekend? Should I take a day off? That kind of thing. I also did it for my shoes. I tried not to put too many miles on my shoes to avoid a blow out or an injury. These days, however, I find it better to forget about distance and pace and total mileage. I want to just get out there and enjoy it. I want to simply run.

Many years ago I was surprised, before the start of a marathon, to run into a good friend from college. I knew Pat had become a serious runner, taking on marathons, trying to run fast. He asked me if I had a finish time goal. That year I didn’t really have a significant one–maybe finish under four hours or something. He said to me “I think I’ll try to start out with fives.” It took me a minute to realize he was talking about his pace. He was planning to run an average of five minutes per mile. When you think that way you win marathons. Turns out, out of a field of thousands, he came in fourth overall. Not too shabby.

Afterwards I asked Pat about his training. He admitted that he did not always want to go for a run. Some days it was raining or cold or he was just tired, but he was determined to reach the running goals he set for himself. So he said this: “When I know I need to get out there, but I don’t feel like it, I just get out there anyway.” Always, he said, he felt great once he got going, and especially great when he was done. So this year I am determined to get out there anyway.

Yesterday morning I got out there. There is a beautiful class four road (unmaintained in winter) nearby. It is perfect for a run–through the woods, great views into town, all dirt, no pavement. I have not run on it much recently because it has been snowy or icy and seemed too treacherous. But I have started to run on it anyway. Yesterday morning it was covered in a light snow. This was a challenge as that light snow covered up the ice. Light snow on ice? Not ideal for running.

I picked may through, however, walking gingerly at times. Again, I am not in it for a pace. I just want to run. It was a beautiful morning, cold but not too cold. The fresh snow beautified the brownness and grayness of winter. I sucked in the wintry air and stayed warm by moving. It felt, as my friend had suggested all those years ago, great.

This is a lesson I keep coming back to. Get out there anyway. The road is icy, or it is snowing, or it is hot, or rain pounds the trail–get out there anyway. I carry it over into other realms as well. At work, I have to do something I don’t really want to do? Do it anyway. That chore at home I would rather put off? Do it anyway.

Come spring, lots of people will come out of the woodwork and I will see them running. I will not wait. As long as I don’t injure myself I will get out there whatever the weather, whatever my mood. I know that once I get going I will feel great. Thanks, Pat.

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