“Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being — a call that asks who they are …”
– David Blaikie

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Awareness is the New Euphoria

"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness...." -James Thurber


If I could ingrain this quote into my subconscious mind, fore-consciousness, and all the other consciousness I may possess, that would be grrreaatttt.  How do you relate to these words?  Let's let Robyn's inner high school English teacher out of the box for a second and break this quote down into parts:

"Let us not look back in anger...":  When I look back into the past at hurtful, or anger-provoking memories, how does that serve me in the present?  Since this is a running blog, after all, I will relate it to the topic at hand.  If I look back at the level of running I used to perform (at the surface level) there were some awesome achievements made - and for good causes.  The fact is that I ran very long distances (marathons and beyond) for quite a while (officially and unofficially).  The memories are a different experience because they are that delusional grey area between facts and thoughts - oh, and throw time in there to blur some of those facts and thoughts, because why the heck not, right?!

When I was forced to take some time off, I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest - I actually had physical and emotional withdrawals, which I will never go through again, thank you very much!  During that time, I felt excruciatingly hurt, which was masked heavily as anger.  I counted down the days until I could run again.  The day finally arrived, and I couldn't get my running shoes on fast enough.  I ran with my exercise therapist next to me on a treadmill.  I had written a journal the day before about how euphoric I would feel once I could run again!  But...guess what?  It was not euphoric.  It just was.  I ran a little longer - waiting for that high to hit and for me to blast off and feel like I was running on a cloud, numb and void of feeling all biofeedback and emotions.  Buzz kill:  it did not happen that way.  I just ran a few miles, hit "STOP" on the treadmill and carried on with my day.  I was puzzled and confused because it was not how I had remembered.  Sure, it felt nice to get the lungs and legs working hard and my heart pumping, but that numbing sensation was absent. 

Depending on how you read that last sentence, it may make you sad, or it may make you think, "Hey, I really need to get to that point because right now, I have to run otherwise I feel my emotions way too much and they are too difficult for me to handle, so I run...and thus, the Merry-Go-Round keeps spinning.  

"...nor forward in fear..." Now that I have allowed a plethora of time to lapse in between being the running addict and breaking up with the addict part, I look forward to what is to come.  It has been almost three years since that day I got on the treadmill and was reintroduced to running again with a healthier mindset.  THREE YEARS.  Before this point in this crazy journey, I would look fearfully into the future when running was mentioned or considered: fear of never being able to run again; fear of not being a credible coach or source for running information; fear of judgment of never running enough.  That fear gave birth to anxiety, which often happens when we look too far into the future.  I have worked very diligently on creating the balance that I personally need in order to have it back in my life.  I handle anxiety in other ways that do not include running - we need to feel those emotions; become emotional wave surfing legends!  Surfers cannot be numb...

"....but around in awareness...." I make sure to take inventory of biofeedback, thoughts, and anxiety level before I set foot outside and consider running.  This is an important process for me, and one that I must stay hyper-aware of.  Running liberated means being aware of surroundings, all senses being utilized, and the thoughts that ebb and flow.  One of the purest aspects of running is the ability to think of anything, everything, or nothing while you run.  It has been one of my favorite parts of the sport.  I heard a beautiful analogy once about thoughts:  Imagine yourself at an airport luggage carousel.  You are an inspector, of sorts.  There are many suitcases and packages slowly passing by.  You can choose to stare at one, study it, even open it if you dare, but YOU have the power to choose.  Those suitcases may be full of memories, amazing clothing from all over the world, or they could be filled with trash, spoiled food, or dangerous, poisonous, items.  YOU have the power to choose!  The suitcases and packages are your thoughts.  You can choose to inspect them closely or let them drift on by.  Most likely, you will see some of those packages pass by again - and you will need to practice that awareness as to which ones you decide to inspect.  This is awareness....

All in all, I hope someone reads this and gains a bit more awareness, which, in turn, will give that individual more power over thoughts. It is truly liberating.  


Day Two of Running:
Miles: 3
Anxiety Level (1=none, 10=debilitating): 2
Biofeedback:  Calves are tight, so better to stretch first...but at least they are not screaming!
Pre-Run Thoughts: It is going to rain and how awesome will that be!  I used to love running around in the rain!
Intra-Run Thoughts:  I actually listened to the Armed Forces Cadences today for good footfalls and stride.  I sang along so the thoughts were minimal.
Post-Run Thoughts:  Simply grateful and blessed to have a strong body and the ability to run - and feel.






1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing - I can completely relate to this - and I have never even thought of running so mindfully like this before. Thank you! Keep up the amazing posts!