Monday, March 9, 2009

Running Toward

I started “running” in the late 1970s. By running, what I mean is actual training in order to run fast in foot races, not jogging a lap around the field as punishment for missing a tackle at JV football practice. Despite the so-called Running Boom that was then underway, and Americans supposedly embracing the phenomenon in massive numbers, I was still dealing with the razzing of the locals in my rather small hometown in southern Wisconsin. At first, and no doubt exacerbated by the fact that I was an adolescent male, I’d get infuriated at the experience. I’d be out running, and I’d get plenty of this type of guff:

“Hey, where’s the fire? Haw! Haw!”
“Faster, faster, faster, heh heh!”
“Whatsamatter, yer girlfriend catch you with her sister?”
“What are you running away from?”

Eventually, I’d reach the edge of town, and get out on the country roads or shaded trails all by myself. Slowly entranced by the rhythms of my own breathing and the tapping of my feet, my active mind would begin to relax in a way that it never would otherwise. If you are a runner, you know these moments … your thoughts begin to unfocus, you can almost deconstruct your experiences and your reactions to them, but without really making an effort. Some say this is a moment of Zen, but I have never been able to find an adequate label or even describe the experience very well. But I know it happens.

Even at that age (now over 30 years ago) my initial anger and resentment started to unravel into a kind of free-floating curiosity. Hmm. What was I running away from? Maybe I was running away from what I could become, if I were to join the herd and shout insults from the porch at what I didn’t understand or envied. Or perhaps I was running away from the intrinsic nature of being an adolescent male, the foaming and volatile mixture of aggressive independence and deep longing for connectedness that boils inside our male souls and drives us all mad.

No, those were interesting theories, and even if they were true in part, they did not describe the WHY of my running. Not even close.

One day, it kind of dawned on me. And I do mean dawned, as in a slow revealing of the light, subtle enough to seem too slow to be changing, but yet unstoppable. I wasn’t running away from anything. I was running toward something. But that something wasn’t the next race, or a few lost pounds, or some distant physical border, or popularity, or any such external goals. It was much bigger and much simpler than that. I was running toward me. I wasn’t fleeing, I was seeking.

This mini-revelation has inspired and influenced my running ever since. To me, running is a kind of exploration, an adventure every day. I embrace the weather, put my face to the wind, and I am alive and on the move. Every run is a chance to discover something more.

Why start a blog? I don’t have a great answer for that question, but I’ll play around with it on my next few runs. Let’s just say, for now, that as I continue my seeking I think there are some things I could stumble upon that might need saying (or writing, as it were). Reactions, ideas, thoughts. I can’t promise they will all be profound or even worth reading. Some will be about running, some about life in general. Maybe now and then you will find something interesting.

In the meantime, join me by going out for a run, no matter where you are. Unlock your thoughts and let them spill out and fall apart for awhile. You never know what you may find.

- Douglas

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