Liberation Running

You will never find time for running. You must make the time. Make that time for you - to think about anything, everything, or nothing at all. Run free, liberated from technology, or run with all the gadgets - just run.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Make the Marathon More Mini....

For the last few days, I have needed gas in my car. I have a screen that tells me how many miles I have left until the dreaded "E" (empty). On my way out this morning, the warning light came on reminding me that I need to fill-er-up soon. I cleared the screen and saw that I had 26.2 miles left until "E"! I laughed and thought about a time when I had put the marathon distance into perspective, for a marathon virgin, in just this way:

I was running with a good friend, Tami, in Florida training for the A1A Marathon a few years ago. It was her first marathon, so we were doing the"wall buster" 22.5 mile training run. I was trying to put the whole "marathon" distance into perspective for her so it wouldn't seem so daunting. So, I said, Think about when you are low on gas and you have 26 miles to go until you are out of fuel, do you panic and rush to the nearest gas station? I was happy that her answer confirmed my theory, Of course I would get to the nearest gas station! CLICK...there it is, folks...26.2 miles is NOT that far. Keep telling yourself that and you'll be fine...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Looking Backward, Moving Forward...

"One can look back a thousand years easier than forward fifty." - Richard Bellamy, Looking Backward.

In my kitchen, I have a digital picture frame that plays a slideshow of photos taken throughout the years. As I was cleaning up after lunch, I stopped and stared at each picture as it appeared on the screen. Pictures create memories of our past. Deep inside, I wished that the digital frame would give me a glimpse of what's to that will one day be on the display screen.

Photos taken during the Keys 100 mile run came on the screen and I had a huge moment of self-discovery. I have been in Arizona for a year now, and I remember looking at these same photos last year at this time. I recall thinking, I wish I was THAT person again: that strong, that focused, that happy. Pictures of Lisa Smith-Batchen's 50 miler here in Phoenix came up next. I hadn't trained at all for that day, but I went out and ran anyway. I remember feeling confident that day, and smart (making good decisions about nutrition, pace, etc). Today, as I looked at the pictures flash by, my heart smiled, I am a BETTER person: stronger, more focused, and the happiest I have ever been in my life. I have reached the summit of your pyramid, Maslowe! What could possibly come next? Do I dare ask?

Keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Relentless. Forward. Motion.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stephen King Does Ultra-endurance...

I recently finished reading another wonderfully written and motivational book called The Long Walk, by Stephen King. I know what you're thinking: Stephen King? Motivational? This was my first Stephen King experience, and it was a fulfilling one.

The initial intrigue I had for this story is this : 100 boys are summoned to partake in a walk starting from the northern border of Maine and going southbound as far as they can walk. They must maintain a speed of 4.0 miles per hour or faster or they are warned by soldiers riding on a half-track. After a boy receives 3 warnings, he is shot dead in his tracks. They are offered food concentrates (like GU gels) and can have unlimited refills of water. Charley-horse cramps, stomach cramps, extreme exhaustion, heat exhaustion, pneumonia, insanity are some of the reasons why numerous boys "buy their ticket" out by being shot dead. Now, you are thinking: Okay, you're sick, Robyn! How is this motivating??

After reading about the first boy getting shot, I honestly didn't think I could get through the rest of the book. But I remembered what Marta had told me when she had recommended this book to me before the Keys 100 mile race: Stephen King really describes the boys' psyche as they push themselves to keep moving forward. So, I kept reading and came across some of these great literary gems (specifically for an ultra long distance runner!):

"They (the Walkers) got that way, Garraty had noticed. Complete withdrawal from everything and everyone around them. Everything but the road. They stared at the road with a kind of horrid fascination, as if it were a tightrope they had to walk over an endless, bottomless chasm" (p. 121).
I vividly remember, during the Keys 100 race, a man (I thought he looked more like a helpless boy) walking like a zombie in front of me, crossing over the bridges in the darkness. At one point, he had two crew-members holding him up. He was completely dazed...nutrition must have been a little "off". It seems as if the brain is usually capable of multi-tasking, but when it is that exhausted or under-nourished, it can only focus on the task at hand...moving forward.

"How deep inside himself is he? Fathoms? Miles? Light-years? How deep and how dark? And the answer came back to him: too deep and too dark to see out. He's hiding down there in the darkness and it's too deep to see out" (p. 209).
My tunnel. My cave. The quintessential "zone-out". Forty-six and two. Ultimate zen. Whatever you want to call that intimate place you have deep inside yourself, the place where pain and the outside world cannot harm you anymore until you are bitch-slapped back into reality. This is my favorite place to "run".

"Thinking, Garraty thought. That's the day's business. Thinking. Thinking and isolation, because it doesn't matter if you pass the time of day with someone or not; in the end, you're alone. He seemed to have put in as many miles in his brain as he had with his feet. The thoughts kept coming and there was no way to deny them. It was enough to make you wonder what Socrates had thought about right after he had tossed off his hemlock cocktail" (p. 134).
Take away all the technology that suffocates us these days and you are left with your thoughts, which can be a good or bad thing. Without distractions, we have focus, but in an extreme endurance event, it seems as though if we can wrap our brains around something other than the task at hand, we may have a better chance of being successful in our endeavors. I rely on my thoughts while running until my thoughts start running me. There is a breaking point or "wall" to be hit with any distance. I find that most beginner runners can't get past that 5K mark at first attempt: I get tired at around 3 miles or I got bored! For marathoners, it is around the 18th-22nd mile when the novelty wears off and the realization, and often panic, sets in. For ultra-runners...true do-or-die type runners who run until they are taken off the course by medics against their will, there are many walls. To some, the hallucinations kick in and the"wall" appears to be a group of galloping gnomes, a snail on a motorcycle, or the dreaded smiling Great White Shark who mocks the bridge crossers! Yes, the latter was definitely a personal experience. Thoughts seem to be infinite. Thinking does pass the time...controlling the thoughts is the key.

"Distance lends perspective, they say" (p. 203).
This phrase speaks volumes to me. One way of looking at it is similar to the over-used, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." In context, the character, McVries, is speaking about his crazy ex-girlfriend and about how angry he was years ago over the demise of his relationship with her. He was able to look to the past and gain a different perspective, and, ultimately, attitude toward her. This is especially applicable to any emotional situation, especially under the magnification of a teenager. One can look back at stressful situations and often laugh. Distance measured in time does indeed lend perspective. The irony is this: Distance, measured in miles, ALSO lends perspective. I can truthfully say the logical side of my brain awakens from it's slumber during a run. The funny thing is that my creativity is also enhanced. The farther I run, the more clarity I gain. Taken to heart, one may be able to solve the world's problems just by...going on a run...

"'It's amazing how the mind operates the body,' (Stebbins) said at last. 'It's amazing how it can take over and dictate to the body. Your average housewife may walk up to sixteen miles a day, from icebox to ironing board to clothesline. She's ready to put her feet up at the end of the day but she's not exhausted. A door-to-door salesman might do twenty. A high school kid in training for football walks twenty-five to twenty-eight.....that's in one day from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night. All of them get tired, but none of them get exhausted'...But suppose you told the housewife: today you must walk sixteen miles before you can have your supper'...Garraty nodded (and replied) 'She'd be exhausted instead of tired.' Stebbins said nothing. Garraty had the perverse feeling that Stebbins was disappointed in him. 'Well, wouldn't she?' (Garraty says). 'Don't you think she'd have her sixteen miles in by noon so she could kick off her shoes and spend the afternoon watching the soaps? I do. Are you tired, Garraty?...Exhausted?...No, you're not getting exhausted yet...'" (p. 237).
This was too good not to include in this post. Exhaustion, by definition, it is extreme physical or mental fatigue. The literal Latin translation is "drain out". I have only been truly exhausted a few times in my life. I am in a constant state of tiredness...but just before I hit the point of exhaustion, I hit my 127th wind that drains that last drop! Have you ever been truly exhausted?

What I discovered about myself...
I immediately identified with the characters on the level of the mind/body connection which was a great discovery for myself. I don't enjoy yoga or anything in the stereotypical "mind/body" genre of exercise or new aged thinking. I actually detest it! But, instead, I found that my mind/body connection is achieved only when it is forced to work together to keep my whole being intact, like a divorced couple who only see each other at their kid's birthday party.

How do you achieve that mind/body connection?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Experiencing Someone's Pain...

This morning I went to the gym and was having an "off" day. I got on and off the treadmill, stretching in between sets of mileage. I started to worry. I started wondering how the day will THAT day is going to my body cooperates and what tricks my mind will play on me. Perfect example: Watching the Dallas Cowboys lately has been frustrating because they seem to have those game days that they are just "off" and not playing well. I have never earned myself a "DNF" (did not finish) and will be crushed if it comes down to that. These thoughts haunted me this morning.

Next month...that's month. I will be running the 24 Hour treadmill run NEXT MONTH. Although I changed my training drastically from previous runs, I have still managed to become a zombie. My brain has taken the wheel and I am coasting on auto-pilot, and will continue to be on auto-pilot until this run is completed. People ask me how it's going to go, and what I expect. I never know what to expect. This time there's some sort of void. I can't tell if it's in my heart, or in my spirit, or if it is just my head making up stuff.

God was listening. Karma was on guard. The rain gods poured down rain here in the desert. Someone somewhere was rubbing a big gold Buddha belly. A feeling of Zen was in place as soon as I started to chat with a newfound friend. She has been going through a ton of stress in her life. She opened up to me and told me that she had suffered abuse as a child. I felt a sharp tug at my heart and something in me clicked. A whirlwind of realization came out of the cloudy sky as the electricity in my brain flickered and the lightbulb came back on, the void was filled: WHY I am running.

Most of you know, I am dedicating this run solely to The Purple Ribbon Council who is headed up by a true saint, Donna Bartos. This organization was set up to help those families affected by Domestic Violence and even homicide. As I listened to my friend talk, I saw the pain in her eyes and it radiated in her voice. That one should feel it. My heart ached for her. I saw it firsthand, the effects of what it does to people. I flashed back to a scene from my past when I had seen the aftermath of this violence for the first time. My aunt had come over to our house when I was very young. I could hardly recognize her. Her eyes were swollen and bruised. Her arm was bruised and red. The strong feisty person I loved was broken, and I couldn't understand why. The thing my friend and my aunt have in common is that they had been beaten down to the depths of themselves so deep that confidence could not find it's way back out. Having suffered from Anorexia and Bulimia in my life, I felt an instant connection during my conversation today. The toxic feeling of worthlessness. Negativity accumulates a lot faster than positivity and it is a heavy load to lift. It's like fat. It's easy to put on, but a hell of a lot harder to take off. Each stressor and negative thought, each abusive memory burdens the soul, thus making it harder to be uplifted.

These feelings, this connection I felt today made me more motivated than ever. THIS is why I am running. Two attempts will be made on November 12-13. Attempting to beat a record seems so trivial now. My entire focus and my drive has shifted to something so much more important.

Thank you for sharing some of your "story" with me know who you are...