Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Long Run

Saturday or Sunday morning, depending on weekend plans, I wake up early. Not before the birds, but before the babies in my nest. I quietly tiptoe in socked feet to the kitchen, scarf down a granola bar, fill my water bottles, cue my iPod, and leave the house, quiet as I can. It's my time. I have set a route, measured it online, and have a rough idea of how long it will take me. These runs aren't races. They will take as long as they take. My steps are small and my pace is leisurely. Everything bounces and the swish-swish sound my sneakers make on the sidewalk or trail is that start of a steady percussion that holds true for as long as I set out to run.

I take a moment at the beginning to tune into my legs and feet. I pay attention to the feeling of their wakening; I know the first couple of kilometres will be sluggish. My legs feel like lead, heavy under the effort of lifting and propelling me forward. I know this will pass. I pump my legs and my heart pumps blood and together we work through the stiffness that set in during last night's rest. I create and fall into a rhythm. I turn my attention to my podcast and get lost in a world of stories.



After the first few kilometres, my legs know what to do. They keep pumping. My brain protests now and again; it is wired to caution me against overexerting myself lest I need to rapidly escape some unforeseen threat. Something like, "Dude, you should really cut this short or slow down. What if you are exhausted all day? This feels hard. Do we need to do this? Now?" The beauty of the long run starts to reveal itself the moment I begin to un-hear these creeping doubts. Underneath the noise of logic and responsibility is a smaller voice that chimes, "You can do this, you got this, it's gonna feel so good."

I wave to other runners as we cross paths, offering a smile. The smile reminds me to tap into the joy. Running, when done as a reprieve from an otherwise busy and demanding life, is joyful to me. I feel great joy in being unencumbered, left alone, free to finally tune into myself in ways I otherwise do not. All week long, I am someone's mother, wife, friend, daughter, employee or neighbour. I gladly fill my days with tasks that bring together the cords of my multi-layered existence. I go to bed exhausted, in a way that proves I have done much with the hours given to me by Father Time. But on my long runs, Time is not my master. I am slave only to myself, and I am learning to be a patient, gentle commander.

I see the trees as they morph through their stages of growth and decay, depending on the season. I see wildlife and humbly pass through their lands, thanking them for their beautiful presence. I check in with my body systems for signs that I need to make adjustments: Am I thirsty? Do my feet hurt? Are my shoulders back and open? Am I breathing steady? Is my gait strong and supportive? This simple act of checking in and listening intently for non-verbal answers is often the only time I dedicate to such pure self-care. It's a gift to myself I don't take for granted.

I come home bone tired, sweaty, and desperate to take off my shoes. I let myself in the front door,  into the cacophony of daughters who have since awoken, eaten and reached peak levels of weekend morning excitement. I exchange hugs and morning greetings, passing the threshold from sacred alone time to mama in high demand. I excuse myself for a shower and stretch, ready to live outside of my head and body.




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