Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thinking, Running. Running, Thinking

ORN: 24.0 miles, R1/W1, 4:47:55, 12:00/mile

At work late Friday afternoon, a colleage popped into my office. She had read this blog recently, noting I was now a "sponsored runner". She's preparing for a half-marathon this spring and had some shoe questions. She then asked about my prep for the Los Angeles Marathon. I noted this weekend, three weeks ahead of race day, was the time for the last long run. How long? she asked and then grimaced when I replied "23." She then asked me a very perceptive question.

"So, Joe, just what do you think about on such a long run?"

That is one of the best questions I've ever been asked about running. I stumbled a bit when talking with her. Yet, as I set out this morning, I decided to catalog just what I did think about. And several categories emerged.

Not surprisingly, I thought about running quite a bit. With a marathon only three week away, I played out the various preparations remaining, travel not the least of them. I also thought about the run/walk strategy. Once more, I used a one minute run, one minute walk plan for today's long run. hits a heart-rate zone which lets me feel like I can just go and go. The first 14 miles of the run was largely on snow and slush from the overnight flurries, which is not efficient. Nevertheless, the 1/1 worked great. No pain, no niggles, no nothing. Just running.

I also thought a lot about both family and work. There are a lot of situations in both. What do I do? Or not do? Who do I write? Who do I phone? Who do I leave alone? I find the long weekend runs often allow me enough time to truly process ambiguous situations more fully. Yet, I often can't get into those topics for a good hour or so after getting started.

Speaking of snow, I thought a lot today about just how to describe the bleakness of Indiana in late February. The 1/2" of overnight snow on top of gritty piles of snow from bigger storms earlier in the month reminded me of something, but just what? Then it hit me. It was like going to a wedding ceremony at which you know both families have some significant dysfunctions. They dress up nicely but you can see some of the ugliness still peeking through.

Better to just show some photos, though. I've told you before about the fields I run they are on a really grey, overcast winter day.

Corn Field

Running Path

The running path here had drifted shut pretty well. The only place to run had been packed down but resembled a single-track, heavily-rooted trail run much more than the broad asphalt sitting underneath it.

Soybean Field

And here's my favorite soybean field. Dry, cold, silent.

All these photos are color, folks. This is just how grey it can get here. My wife and I have often speculated that the length and colorless-ness of winter is one reason high school and college basketball are so popular in the Midwest. It simply offers people a wonderful diversion from the toughness of the outdoors. I noted to publish photos of the same scenes in May...the contrast is fantastic.

I thought a lot about wisdom today. Not a common topic, but I think about it. Simply put, wisdom is proper application of knowledge. How do I learn wisdom? How do I assess it in my own life?

I though about, ached with and prayed for a good friend with whom we used to work. His wife lost a two-year battle with cancer a week ago. Today was her memorial service. What was he feeling? How was he doing? Now a widower at age 55, how was the grief working out? How can I support him? A man of faith, John is nevertheless struggling in knowing the hope God offers on one hand while facing very real loss on the other. I simply ached for him.

As the run ended, I shifted back to thinking about running. The 1/1 worked well, really well. And an idea. As the Garmin said I hit mile 22.8, I decided to run continuously the rest of the way. And so I did. The last 1.2 miles came in at a 10:22 pace, the fastest pace of the day. Better, it felt very comfortable. I ended the run feeling well prepared for Los Angeles. Assuming, of course, there is no snow on the ground there.

So that's what I thought about for nearly 5 hours. Some things noble, some mundane, but mostly useful. And that's what good questions do...they make us think more deeply.

Persevere. And think well.



John said...

Great post, Joe, fun to read. Interesting how one's thoughts can move around randomly during a run, like a William Faulkner novel. Many of life's issues can be worked out on a long run.

Good photos, too! What looks dreary to someone who lives in it every day looks like beautiful scenery to those of us who only know 65F temps.

Backofpack said...

Great post Joe! I've been asked that question, usually following "How can you run without music?" I love the way my thoughts drift during any run, drift and dream. And...sometimes I don't think at all, I just exist. Does that make sense? I just run on auto-pilot and the only input or output is sensory, I hear my footfalls, I hear my breathing, I run. I think that is the only time my mind ever goes completely quiet - even in sleep, I'm dreaming.

Sarah said...

I think for non-runners this is a big question. As you show in your post..there's lots to think about! And as Michele mentions, sometimes not thinking is good too!

One of my midweek running partners can't understand how I can run long distances by myself without "getting negative." I honestly can't relate to the question!

I think the grey is kind of pretty. But I guess it can get old. I think that's one reason I like/don't mind the PNW grey, and sometimes, dreary winters. The beautiful spring/summer/fall more than makes up for it!

Darrell said...

That question is really an interesting one to non-runners.

I agree with Michelle. I tend to not think about much, I just run. Or maybe more accurately it is kind of like dreaming. My thoughts bounce from place to place and seem vivid at the time, but once I stop running they are simply gone, much like dreams when I awaken.

I suppose some would consider this a waste of time, but I really do enjoy the alone time away from the rest of life stressors. But sadly just like a returning to work after a vacation it only takes one bad encounter to wipe the whole rejuvinating experience away.

That's the way life is, I suppose.

Wes said...

I love the solitude of my mind when I run. I, too, should probably catalog what I think about one day, but I'm sure I would forget by the time I was done :-)