Monday, December 31, 2012

Running Forward

Part of my Mississippi Gulf Coast run, along the I-90 Bridge.
On this last day of 2012, I ponder life ahead as I run, run, run from my regrets. Sure, all the breezy, cool people claim to have none but I'm more of a tortured, awkward soul. (A friend once observed, "The thing is, you can actually pass for normal.") Anyway, these days I run, and man-o-man, it helps.

Denver's Washington Park
People who jogged willingly used to mystify me. Watching their skinny bodies float by in a glowing sweat, I'd mock while secretly marveling at their lone resolve to best themselves. I'd wonder about their motivational source, knowing that mine would likely have to be a threat of violence. They look fit, of course, but there was something more in their faces - contentment? Satisfaction? I could never be sure but there had to be tremendous focus, another envious state - I constantly battle and seek its productive qualities.

And then, one day, Colorado - as she has done so many times before - grabbed hold of my fleshy person and made me do a thing I'd never imagined doing: run. (She did this before with musical instruments and again, with church-going.) Next thing I knew, I was attempting a jog around Denver's Wash Park on a dewy morning without a shred of confidence. I felt like an awkward bag of molasses and heaved like a heavy smoker - I was neither.

Along my North Dakota run.
And, of course, there was That Woman who ran effortlessly past me, blond ponytail swinging with confidence. She pushed a stroller - with triplets - and held two Golden Retrievers on a leash while orchestrating a party over her cell phone: "I was thinking we'd start with some light hors d'oeuvres and fruit...." 

Long Beach path
She haunts me still. As do the two old ladies who passed me, while walking.

Nevertheless, I've come a long way since that first run and this Saturday, I'll be attempting my first half-marathon in Jackson, Mississippi. What's worse, I've foolishly agreed to run the LA Marathon in March. Other than accidentally getting swooped up in the annual Turkey Trot on the beach Thanksgiving Day, I’ve never actually ran in a race before. But I have now been cheered on by strangers (and high-fived by a guy in a turkey suit) so color me addicted. 

In between, I've enjoyed beautiful runs - remote back country roads in North Dakota to bustling beach paths in Long Beach to Colorado's Red Rocks - and I'm always impressed how much peace it brings.

Running has become more than exercise to me, it's become an act of gratitude for my body and where it can take me. Surely, it's meditational, for there is always a point when I am locked into my groove, firmly ensconced in my comfy still-slowish pace, and I forget what my body is up to and my mind runs free.

I even bought special running shoes from an honest woman named Mary at Runner’s High. She knew her shoes. When I asked Mary about her own running habits, she said quietly, “Oh, it’s been awhile but I hope to get back to it.” It was then I noticed her left leg, which was beyond swollen, it was actually about three times larger than the other leg. I don’t know what that condition is called but it can’t be comfortable. And then work in a running store? Oi. 

The holidays are a tough time for me - something to get through - and the literal act of moving forward presents a sliver of peace - running toward the future, leaving my past in the dust.

Ocean Springs beach path


Anonymous said...

You may stumble a bit at the start- but you'll finish strong like always. Good running. Kirk

Heather Clisby said...

Thanks for the support, now and always.

quirkychick said...

How was the half marathon!?
That used to be my favorite distance, back in my 20s when I used to run. A 10K was something that could be done while still drunk from the night before and a marathon was downright scary. The half marathon was an accomplishment wherein you hit the wall and came back to enjoy the last few miles before finishing.

Hope it was awesome.