September 23, 2010

Running on Full

I began to run relatively seriously about a year ago. My daughter grumbled one morning when I was encouraging her to get up and go to her cross country practice, telling me that if it was so easy, I should do it myself.

I knew then it wouldn't be easy, but I still decided to give it a shot. What better example could I set than to do the very thing I was encouraging her to do. When I was a boss at the grocery store, I had the same philosophy. I could ask anyone to do any task, provided they had seen I was also willing to do it.

I've had a lot of ups and downs and moments of lost motivation. An ache or a pain, inclement weather, weather that is too nice, you name it, I've found a reason to skip my run. But too many skipped runs and any progress made rapidly is lost. It's rather generous to call what I do running. I'm a person in my 40s, was never athletic and I am somewhat overweight.  But I find inspiration not in the person who wins races, but instead in the last one to finish. I watch these people overcome much more than I am overcoming to run and am uplifted. There is a gentleman who regularly participates in 5Ks, to the tune of 2300+ races. He is 84 years old, wearing two knee braces and it takes him nearly 45 minutes to finish. It is impossible to see him at a race and not smile.

Yet, my motivation still waxes and wanes. Today, I decided to return to my favorite running trail, for a long walk, not a run, so that I could capture in film what motivates me to run every day.


A beautiful misty morning beckons me and a  handsome young male agrees to keep me company.

Experimental Farm
Einstein Urig
The journey of a thousand miles (or four) begins with a single step.

 When I first started to run, I set goals along the path.

Mill Creek Bike Trail

Run until I reach the apple tree.  Ponder how many have fallen since the day before. Marvel that they are red, no longer green.

Each day, I add a new landmark. Some are rather obvious, like running to the tennis club, where I silently scoff at the folks who buy memberships to run around, when I am doing it for free. 

canfield swim club
Then I begin to pay closer attention to my surroundings. I weave stories in my mind about the people who frequent the path, from pieces of evidence that are left behind.

I imagine a funeral for a beloved pet. Then I spy a little makeshift bridge over the ditch, from a suburban backyard. An escape to the somewhat tamed wild. 

Each step along the path keeps my mind engaged while my feet are moving.  I feel like I am visiting old friends and keeping up with them. I am territorial about my path and notice each leaf that falls. I am thrilled they began to change colors a little earlier this year.

Overcome with joy, I see my goal, Lucky 7. Halfway finished.

I am more mindful on my return trip. I see blue jays, yellow finches, cardinals, woodpeckers, groundhogs, squirrels, and chipmunks. Unfortunately, my canine companion sees them first and they are committed to memory, but not film.

I start to ache, but in a good way. I look longingly at the dilapidated chairs outside a tire store along the path. I keep walking.
The town granary is bustling from the harvest and I breathe in deeply, smelling long forgotten scents of animal feed from my days as a 4H member raising livestock.

I continue my walk, as the sun shines and the mist is gone.  A daisy peeks at me from the path. He loves me, he loves me not... Oh I don't want to know she says, and stops.

On the horizon is my starting point. I want to run, I wish I could run, unencumbered by my camera around my neck and my dog on his leash. I wish to feel the gentle breeze racing over my cheeks and the sweat cleansing my pores. I want my heart to pound with life, drowning out the sounds of anything but my own breathing and heartbeat.

Tomorrow, I cannot wait to run past my friends until I can pause and see them again.

And that, my friends, is how I stay motivated to run.

How do you stay motivated?


  1. That was a great idea to take your camera along. I notice all kinds of details like those when I run but they're just fleeting memories. It made me think about why I run, too, and the things that motivate me.

    I run because I like the results. Call me vain, but I like the idea that I weigh the same as I did when I was a varsity athlete in high school 30+ years ago and that, as a middle aged guy, I'm in good enough shape to visit remote places that few people will ever see.

    I run because it keeps me sane. I've been dogged by mild depression for many years, and running invariably lifts the cloud even on the bleakest of days. It gives me a new outlook, renewable daily, on life. It may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

    But mostly, I run because I can. I remember friends and colleagues who lived full lives but died young and will never run again. I think about the men and women we send off to war and who never return. I try to imagine what life is like for the residents of the leper colony I walked past on my last visit to India. And sometimes, on those perfect days with brilliant blue skies and just a hint of chill in the air, when my stride is smooth and I'm feeling strong, I'll realize a split second of perfection between breaths and understand how lucky I am to be able to run. So I do.

  2. I love that you took your camera along with you on your run and that you went out for a run to begin with! How awesome - and it looks like it was a great morning.

    I started running after my mom died. I had so much grief I didn't know what to do with and needed an outlet. That was 8 years ago and I've taken breaks, especially when I was going through my divorce.

    Now, I'm training for a half marathon and marathon and running is my way of reclaiming time for myself. I run to find freedom I can't always find at work or at home and, mainly, I run because I can.


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