“No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new
unity with nature.  I had found a
new source of power and beauty, a source I’d never dreamt existed.”  

-Roger Bannister on breaking the four-minute mile

One of the things I love most about running is the singular
focus of it.  When I’m running,
particularly if I’m doing a workout, I don’t really think a whole lot about
anything other than what I’m doing right then.  If I’m running hill repeats or 400’s on the track or even if
I’m running a tempo run in town, I think about very little besides the actual
physical act of running.  I am completely in tune with what’s going on inside my body and right around it.  Other than that, however, the regular
mental chatter is pretty much silenced.

For a while, I’ve been saying that “I’m just keeping my head
above water”, but now that I’ve finally come out of that state of insanity, I
realize that I did not, in fact, have my head above water at all.  I had pretty much gone under and the
bubbles were getting further and fewer between.  Aside from my much lighter disposition and my better frame
of mind, I can just tell a difference in my general day-to-day
functioning.  And I can tell a
difference in my running.

A couple of years ago, I began training for some longer races
with the express intention of discovering whether or not I could do the long
distances of marathon and beyond. 
I could and I did, and for the experience, I’m grateful.  It’s, as they say, good to know. 

But I’ve pretty much crossed that off my bucket list and
realized that one of the things I loved the most about running was the drive to
get stronger and faster.  I think
the long distance running probably made me stronger than
I’ve ever been before, but it also made me slower than I’ve ever been
before.  This is not always true; I
know plenty of folks who run far and fast, but I am not one of them.  I can run far, and I can run fast but
not necessarily at the same time.

This winter was not my best training season ever.  It was, in fact, pretty damned
bad.  I ran all winter, but the
quality was just not there, and truth told, I just didn’t care at the
time.  I mean, I did, but I had so
many things to care about this past year, it just sort of slipped down the
priority list, which is OK.  I
guess running, particularly if you plan to do it for the long haul, is like
everything else—it has its ups and downs. 
This past winter was down, and I have felt it in almost every facet of
my life.

When I’m not running well, I feel bad physically, emotionally
and spiritually, but when I am, or am at least on the way back to running well,
I can tell such a difference in my whole outlook.  A long run in the woods can bring an entirely new
perspective to light.  For that
hour or 20 minutes or half a day, I am grounded, and this feeling always
carries over in good ways to other parts of my life.  I have solved many a problem or dreamed up many a creative
idea while tramping through the woods, and I’ve probably saved myself from
countless anxiety attacks and fits of anger through concentrated repeats around
an oval track.

Recently, I was reading an essay about the “Zen of Sports”
and how physical activity is a type of “moving meditation”, that the “act of
motion puts us into the now and helps us to stop spinning.”  It is, in other words, a way to
increase our body’s fitness and our spirit’s.

I have never and will never run a sub-4 minute mile.  At some point, I’d just like to get
close to my old PR of 6:28.  I
don’t have the God-given gifts of people like Roger Bannister or Steve
Prefontaine or Kara Goucher, but I can still run the best I can run, and I’m so
glad I’m finally in a place where I feel like I can get back to my old