Monday, March 14, 2011

The Best of Times

When I’m considering the next big event to run (read marathon) I look for “race reports” written by previous participants to help me make my decision. These first-hand accounts give excellent insight into the course, the golden-gatehills, the weather, and all other things related.

Honest retellings are, frankly, much more reliable than the promotional materials you find on the event web sites, although that stuff also has good value.

Yesterday, as I was reading a blog of the San Francisco marathon, it struck me that most race reports have a decidedly negative feeling to them. The most memorable, and most reported, aspects of the races are the moments of suffering or bad weather or tough hills. Having run two marathons myself, I remember those moments quite clearly, and they do tend to resonate. But that doesn’t discount the times of joy and beauty or the elation that came from crossing the finish line on my own two feet.

When I mentioned this thinking to Sally, my wife, she rightly pointed out that most people, when they relate stories about their lives, have a tendency to focus on the most difficult parts of their journey. Perhaps our minds and hearts lean toward the “80-20” rule where 80% of what we remember is kind of bad and 20% is kind of good.

I’d argue, though, that our lives aren’t really that way. I think that 80% (or more) of what we experience is good and even great. Perhaps the other 20% is marked with overwhelming pain and sadness on occasion, and maybe that’s why it takes a bigger portion of our consciousness. And I don’t disagree that the challenges we face are often interesting and stirring, but it’s what we do to overcome the challenges that truly inspires.

Maybe the simple realization that life just comes with joy and sorrow can help us keep a more balanced perspective. “Accept the bad with the good” seems trite, yes. On the other hand, accentuating the negative seems counterproductive to a life of abundance well-lived. We can choose to hurt every day or we can choose to celebrate each day while coping with the hurt. I choose the latter.

And so, after I finish my next marathon, I’m going to write a race report that never mentions how hard it was. No, wait, I’m going to use the “20-80” rule where 20% of the story focuses on the hard parts and the other 80% tells you what a thrill it was to run across the Golden Gate Bridge twice. I may not have run my best time, but the run will be among my best of times.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Small and Needed Breakthrough

For the past few weeks running has been a chore. After almost two full years of jumping out of bed early each day, the bed started winning. The pull of those warm covers became just too great to resist, and I gave in.

On some days I was still able to get a workout done by going in late to work or running afterwards. But, on other days, well, I just didn't go at all. This failure worked on my conscience every day. As I've said before, my life always goes better with exercise. The reverse also seems to be true.

I was starting to think that I was just getting too old for this, but when I went to bed last night I made a resolution for this morning. Run 6 miles. No matter what.

When the time to go came around, of course, it was cold and foggy. Perfect. Not. The same covers were tugging at me, the same stiff joints were calling out. The Today Show looked interesting.

I had to be somewhere at 9:30. The time I had to get it done was ticking away. It was now or maybe later or maybe not.

Tights. Two layers of warmth up top. Shoes tied. iPod on. Gloves on. Garage door up. Garage door down. No turning back. Watch starts. I'm off.

For the first three miles I felt old and tired and slow, but then things started to change. I started to feel loose and fast. Okay, maybe not fast, but certainly loose. Not young, but not terribly old either. I got lost in the fresh air and the cool mist and some favorite music. And the next three miles went by in no time at all.

I made it. One step at a time. It has been a good day since then, too.

This afternoon I let the sheets pull me back in for some nap time together. We're on good terms again. This may be a nice compromise.

Location:Ashburn, VA