A few years ago I was an avid bicycle commuter. Conveniently, the ten miles between home and work are paved by the historic Washington & Old Dominion trail, which traces the path of the old railroad system. It goes much further in either direction, of course, but a segment of the trail is perfectly suited for my needs, and safe, too. Only 4-5 roads to cross the whole time.
As I gradually rounded into shape (a quite precise choice of words) each summer, I reached a point of transition from a guy out getting exercise to one who was traveling to and from work. The difference is this: in the former it’s an accomplishment just to complete the ride; in the latter you don’t even think about the ride itself, you just go.
Unless you habitually run low on gas, you probably never bother to think about whether you will make it to work or not, right? Your car just gets you there, right?. Sort of the same thing.
I have now run the distance to work 7-8 times. And, until yesterday, doing so was a huge achievement. Before that, I could never quite get the run to feel like a commute. No gears to shift, no power steering, no automatic transmission, no coasting. Just me and my clunky legs.
The path is 70% uphill, which is something you don’t really notice on a bike with multiple gears. So for most of those attempts, it was all I could do just to make it the whole way. Although I can run much further than ten miles, somehow these particular ten miles always seem extra hard and a bit daunting.
Of course, that may have something to do with the destination. On the weekend I know I’m headed to a nice/long rest and I can take the time I need. On the weekday, I’m bound to be behind my desk by a certain time. Not that my work is something I don’t enjoy; it’s just not as good as a shower and a nap...
So yesterday—for the first time ever—my legs became just a way to get there. Maybe I just got in the right frame of mind. I’m not sure, but instead of thinking about the possibility of not making it I was able to reflect on all kinds of other stuff while my legs and feet just kept churning along.
My first steps were directly into the face of a west side rainbow—something I can’t ever remember seeing since most of our rain comes in the afternoon making rainbows appear in the eastern sky. “This must be the sign telling me it is going to be a good run and a good day,” I thought, “and I’ll gladly take it.” After that signal, I quickly decided that whenever I got tired I would straighten up my back, tighten up my stomach, look a little further forward, and think positive.
You know what? It worked. It really did. And for a while I felt like the “me” part—my heart and mind—were just along for the ride.