Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I could go faster…if I wasn’t feeling that slight tenseness in my hamstring. Or, that familiar pain starting again, just below my right knee. Are these socks damp? It feels like that dreaded blister is already lined up to attack my foot…and I just started! No air, no air, just can’t get enough air today…just can’t breathe. Oh no…not that cramp already! I should have stretched more…I can already feel that ‘pull’ of tightness in my lower back…. And on and on it goes…it seems there’s always something…I just can’t go as fast today as I would like.
…but then, I say that every day.
Not that I speak from experience or anything…I’m guessing these are just the typical ‘first 5 minutes’ complaints of any good run. So why do I do it? Why do I fool myself into thinking that this time will be different? The same reason you do. By the end of the run, I’m not thinking about any of these problems. Somehow I made it and I feel great. Great for doing it…and great, just feeling great. Plus, it is getting easier…isn’t it? The answer seems to come more by the insistence my internals present to me the next day…to get out there and do it again. After all, running seems to be making a difference, whether my time changes much or not. It has me in its grip…I should do it…I have to do it…It is making a difference in some way…It matters.
I’ve been running for two years now…and my time has dropped by over 20%. I’ve lost 30 lbs. And…I see muscle, even where I thought I would never see it again. And…I feel better. So the math works and my mind agrees that the statistics are meaningful. And, my body reminds me that the pain feels good - when it’s over…and that I don’t want to have to start over with that starting-running-again pain. I’ve noticed that my awareness of other areas of life is different, too.
One thing about running - you are forced to be aware of yourself, aware of where you are really at. The pain of a good run seems to force a certain kind of clarity. It arouses desperation. Your whole body is focused on it.
Pain shows you your limits. It creates opportunity to acknowledge and discover feelings about your existence. Pain clarifies things. It makes you ask questions. Like, how to live with what you want…especially when what you want seems to be beyond your reach. Pain is the wall you can’t get through on your own. It is pain that inevitably holds you back. And, it is pain that inevitably pushes you forward. But, by simply knowing it is there, by feeling it…you begin to see something beyond it. Pain reveals what you want. …by showing you what you can’t have.
What you want and what you can’t have. Side by side. You on one side, desire on the other. A wall in between. You can see over it. But, you can’t get through it. Sometimes what you see isn’t actually all that clear, but you know you still want something. You feel what is on the other side, you can almost taste the good that is over there. And then pain reminds you again of where you are at…especially relative to your need to stop it. Like tasting what you want, but not being allowed to stop and eat the meal.
You try to figure out if you’re half-way home yet. If you are, you use your ‘more than half way home’ knowledge to push on…you’ve made it this far, so it’s shorter the rest of way home than it is back to where you started. You push on, wanting both the relief of being done and the thing you saw over your wall…the thing that pain revealed you. Now you want two things - to be done and to have what you want. And, now that you’re more than half-way, the two things feel like they are pulling you in opposite directions. You have to finish, it hurts too much not to. You focus on finishing. But the memory of what you saw, what you want, lingers…. It is something specific…something in the here-and-now. And, it is something mysterious, hard to name, hard to specify…something almost built in…a longing for something the here-and-now can’t fill.
…and this gets you out running again tomorrow.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about running and I’m talking about life. I think the two are connected in a fundamental way. They are connected through our humanity and they are connected to God. He has connected the two, fusing something in each of us in the here-and-now with something from
We discover that we are not God, after all. We discover instead that we need him. And, after years of running in this life, we learn that we need him for more than simply making our life work out for us. We learn that we don’t want him as much for our sake, as we do for his sake. But, it’s a long road home…to him. And, half the race, we don’t even realize what we’re really running towards. We don’t realize what we are running for. And, then at some point, often the result of a change in circumstances, we start to see more of the landscape…simply because of the mileage our own feet have now traveled over. And our hunger to finish grows, as does our hunger for him…and in time, the two become the same thing.