It’s that time of year again.
No matter how well the summer training goes, no matter how beautiful the fall, the day always comes. One day the rains come, and stay. At the same time the daylight wanes—a little more each day. The daylight hours are few. The clear, daylight hours are fewer. And if I hold out for sunshine, I might not run again until spring.
So yesterday, I got in my car after class and headed home with one goal—get home and get out running before the light goes.
This goal requires me to ignore all possible errands I could get done on the way home. Once home, I must ignore ingrained impulses to clean out the car, load a dishwasher, or fold a basket of clothes. Even harder, I must avoid getting into a conversation with anyone. I love checking-in with my nieces after their day at school—but that must wait if I am gonna get this run.
I throw on tights and running bra, pick a long sleeved shirt made of miracle fabric which will stay warm and dry even on very wet runs. I put on my favorite running socks and my new blue shoes. I love my running shoes and I feel like a kid once they are on my feet. My first stumbling block comes when I find my Garmin is out of juice (AAARRRRGGGH), but I make the bold decision to run without my heart rate monitor, I yell to the girls: “Don’t let the dogs out for a bit!” and I head outside.
And I head back inside—it is really pouring! I need reinforcements. I grab my bright berry-colored rain jacket and head out again. This time I start running and don’t look back.
The best training advice I ever received was: Remember, no training schedule will keep you dry. To which, all God’s people say: Amen. Especially God’s people living in the Northwest.
I am not a good runner. I am probably not even a runner. I am slow. But I love it. I love long, long meditative runs. And I love the Fartlek. Fartlek means something like running play, and it consists of walking or jogging at a slower pace, then taking off in a burst of speed, sprinting until the next tree, until the top of the hill, until that mailbox up ahead. Repeat. Each period of slower pace is used to restore heart rate and breathing, each sprint is used to experience full body joy.
As I sprint up my hill, I come home to my body. I am fully, completely in my body. I am one with my breath and with my arms that are pumping and with my feet that are kicking. I feel my heart beating. And I am filled with gratitude—for this body, for this rainy day, for this last hour of daylight. At the top of the hill, I slow, and I pay attention as my breathing slows. I jog to the bottom and do it all over again.
After my hill repeats, I turn back toward home. I am warm—sweating now—despite the continuing rain. I listen to the sound of my footfalls on piles of pine needles, then on squishy moss, then on crunchy gravel. At these times I remind myself of my girls when they were two and three and four, when every puddle held infinite delight. I am not anxious to be done with my run. I am taking it all in. As I round the bend I see a doe cross the path five meters in front of me. She too, seems not to be in a hurry. She stops and turns her graceful neck so she can look at me. Then she is headed back into the woods and I am alone again.
But I don’t feel alone.
Thrill and beauty, joy and gratitude keep me company all the home.