Saturday, February 8, 2014

Running through the highs and lows

Running through the winter seemed like the thing to do this past fall. I had hit my longest distance run of all time in the summer, 18 miles. I had gotten injured later in the summer but built myself back up. With every mile I gained back, I thought to myself, 

Do not lose these miles.. Build your base. Maintain your base through winter.

So here it is February. Even though  I am thrilled Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow, I still know that regardless of the little guy, it's going to be a rough stretch til spring for this runner girl here in upstate NY. 

The Polar Vortex has brought single digit temps & wind chills below 0. Bitterly cold on your body but worse on your mind when forced to a treadmill to run like a mouse on a wheel. My thoughts repeat as rhythmically as the rubber goes around. And around. And around. 

This sucks. I'm going no where.

I try to tell myself I'm gaining mental discipline but the devil on my shoulder says, screw discipline

Today hit an all time high of 30 with 35 predicted later in the afternoon. 

Outdoor run! Just me & the open road!

I had scheduled my long run for tomorrow but why risk it? And it's been one of those days. Lots on my mind. 

I'm heading out.  As soon as it hits 35.
In hindsight that was greedy. When it warmed to 35 I went out. Then it started sleeting. And raining. 

Miles 1,2,3 brought some flurries. No big deal. 4,5,6 brought the sleet. At first it pelted my face so hard it hurt. After awhile it stopped hurting. I'm guessing because my face was numb.

My mind was consumed with thoughts of relativity. It's been the theme of my week. 30's seemed so cold when winter started, until single digits hit.

An 11 mile run used to seem out of reach, until I ran 18.

It's a bitter cold complaining walk to your car after work. Until you meet the homeless man sleeping in the park while you go home to cuddle up with a good book under your beautiful white Calvin Klein down comforter.

One day you are the best thing in someone's world. The next day? Not so much.

Our situations seem all so relative. I kept thinking, is there any such thing as normal? Do all human beings need to experience the high's and the low's to really appreciate life?

It's harder still riding along with someone else's highs & lows. It's like a roller coaster ride. You soar with them to the very top. But deep inside you never get too comfortable because you know that what goes up must also come down. 

Interestingly, on the way down you find yourself longing for the return to the top at the very same time as you wonder why the heck you ever stood in this line in the first place. You hate roller coasters.

The pendulum of life swings fiercely to the left. But it returns to the center only to creep to the right when "normal" inevitably hits. It's that familiar old, never get too comfortable.

Back to the run.

So I have this amazing new job. My first day as an administrator in 11 years and on my very first day there was a huge snowstorm. There were crazy winds and below 0 temperatures with blowing and drifting snow. So as I'm driving on my merry way down a 45 mph stretch, I pass a tall older man with a walker unsafely walking on the side of the road. He was actually staggering because the wind was blowing him left and right. 

It's my first day. If I stop I'll be late. Did I mention it's my first day? Plus he looks way bigger & stronger than me. That tapped into the old fear stuff. It started to take me dangerously close to the box I keep a tight lid on. 

Keep driving. 

I drove by with a sick feeling in my stomach & the consciousness that I was making the wrong choice. 

Ironically later in the week my boss tells this story. That very same day, my first day, she is driving to work. She sees a couple huddled together walking down an inner city street in the bitter cold & wind. 
She stops.

The nagging image of the man with the walker comes immediately to my mind. 

Same day. Same situation. Except she has the courage to do what I did not.  

This is where I belong.

Today as I'm running I'm wet & cold. I just hit mile 7 when I see a woman through my frozen together eye lashes. She looks in her 80's & she is moving at a snail's pace attempting to shovel her driveway that is a total sheet of ice.

Keep going, Darcey. Don't look back. You can't stop. You're soaked. You're just looking for an excuse to stop running.

I got to the corner & the man with the walker suddenly came to my mind. I still had a sick feeling for not listening to my heart & stopping for him. But after 7 miles of running, I felt strong.

Next thing I knew I was turned around asking the woman if I could help her.

Stopping chilled me to the bone. Stopping raised my awareness of my soaked pants. The wind blowing my drenched hair sent a shiver to the very core of my body. But my heart was suddenly warmer than it has been in a very long time. I learned something from the man with the walker. I learned a lesson from a total stranger. 

Good things can come from bad decisions.

The rest of my run picked up & I felt awesome.  
The pendulum in life swings. It may swing further and wider for some. There are highs and there are lows in life. Sometimes we are the ones experiencing the highs and lows and other times we are merely along for the ride.
Running keeps me grounded in the present, in the here and the now. It's my steady constant. No matter how out of control the pendulum is swinging, I know if I head out the door, somewhere in the 7th or the 11th mile I will be reminded of my strength and my center and what's most important. I will be connected to something bigger than my circumstance.

What keeps you grounded?

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