Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just one more day: Days 226-232

I hope no one minds, but I made  a decision. With all I have to do in getting for a new teaching job and continuing to coach, I find it difficult to daily record my runs. Not that I'm not running. I am. But I'm just not sure that anyone really cares if I ran 2 miles or 20 miles. So I decided to change things up and save myself the self-inflicted assignment (and pressure) of recording my every step. Rather, to keep myself honest, I will post a mere blurb each Sunday and simply report whether or not I was successful in daily running. If any epiphanies struck during the course of an outing, I shall gladly report on that. In fact, I wrote about a night run just a few days ago (Running in the Dark).

So here goes. I ran every day this week. Period. Enough said.
Year-to-date: 1578 miles

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Running in the dark

I love running in the dark. The darkness embraces me. The darkness calms and soothes. The darkness is my friend.

With days full of preparation for the coming school year, my runs, as of late, have been as the sun sets in the west. But last night it was a little later than that. In fact, late enough that prime-time TV was in full swing and the stars were in full view.

Country roads are standard fair for runs from my house. Normally, I wear a reflective vest so the rare car that passes sees me rather than hits me. I also carry a tiny flashlight but refrain from turning it on until I see a car approaching from in front or behind me. Last night was no different.

I've found the best approach to night running on roads is to run right down the middle. This, of course, would be very bad advise if your route is a busy city avenue. But out in the country where you are more likely to coax a herd of cows to stampede beside you rather than have cars run you down, the middle of the road is a good place to be. The runner is able to see bright headlights from the cars in plenty of time to move to the side. Cars driving toward you or coming up from behind will see you better in the middle than if hugging the shoulder.

Another reason to run the middle is there is likely to be fewer potholes or debris. Assuming most drivers stay in their lanes, the middle gets little use, making it a perfect spot for the nighttime runner.

Running at night gives me a sense of speed, even if my speed is less than optimal. I can't see very far into the darkness. That means I can't see what's coming up. I can only deal with each individual step one at a time.

In life, I sometimes wish I could see what lies ahead. How long is the road? What's around the next corner? When will I get to the finish? But after being reminded of some important lessons during my run last night, knowing what's coming up probably isn't a good idea.

There is one particularly difficult hill on the route I ran. Depending on the course I take, I normally hit this cliff at 7, 15, or 18 miles. I always dread it, struggling to make it all the way up the hill and around the bend. Sometimes the hill beats me. But an odd thing happened last night. I didn't even notice the hill. In fact, I was on top and running the flat for quite a way before it registered that the hill was behind me. For a minute, it was disorienting to not remember making the climb. But then it occurred to me that when I simply concentrated on efficient, smooth running one step at a time, even the difficult journey became pleasant. The darkness focused my attention on what was important. Distractions faded into the shadows, allowing me to run in freedom.

I was still contemplating the ease of running that hill when a car approached. I flicked on my little light as I moved toward the left side of the road. My light was intended to grab his attention, and it did. I saw that he moved over a little to his left. That was nice of him. But what wasn't so nice was his blinding headlights. I lowered my head and shielded my eyes from the glare. My pupils, dilated to accommodate night running, burned from his beams. I could no longer see where the blacktop merged with the rough shoulder. There were a few uncomfortable moments when I wasn't sure if my next step would be into a hole or onto an unseen rock. I felt like the guy who sees a light at the end of the tunnel, only to realize it's a train barreling at him at top speed.

I turned my own light toward my feet and regained focus. I could see where I was. The car passed by harmlessly and I continued my run, eager for my eyes to readjust to the blackness. Then it hit me. For light to be helpful, it needs to be the right kind of light coming from the right place. The blinding light in front of me was of no help. In fact, it was counterproductive, blinding me in the moment. But I also know from running trails with friends that a light from behind isn't all that helpful either. A beam behind me casts odd shadows and distorts reality. A light directed at my feet is the best.

A light at my feet lets me see obstacles to avoid. It makes clear my path one step at a time. It protects me from distractions off to the side or looming down the road. It keeps me in the moment.

Then I realized the significance of a oft-quoted verse. "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path" (Psalms 119:105). For as many times as I've heard that verse, I understand it better after my run in the dark. I'm glad I can't always see what's ahead. Thank God, however, that His light, His Word, let's me see every step in the night. That's the only light I need to get to where I'm going.

Keep the light directed at your feet. Run long. Run strong. One step at a time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Just one more day: Days 219-225

Grandpa, grandkids (minus Seth), and great grandkid

Day 219 – August 6, 2012

Today dawned a cloudy, a welcome relief from the hot sun. My run around the lake felt smooth and strong, despite the humidity. I explored a few extra road to make the run a little longer.

Total – 7 road miles

Day 220 – August 7, 2012

I’ve loved being at the lake with family enjoying lazy, hazy summer days. But alas, it’s time to go home. With the decision made, we left early, leaving me to run once we got home and organized. It was back to country roads. Nice, but I missed seeing the lake.

Total – 6 road miles

Day 221 – August 8, 2012

It was the first day of new teacher orientation followed by a “Words of Wisdom” women’s gathering to encourage two young ladies headed off for college. The tight schedule had me pulling into a dark parking lot at 10:15, heading off for a short campus run. Though humid, it was a quiet, relaxing time.

Total – 4 road miles

Day 222 – August 9, 2012

My team met me after school for another team run; a “follow the leader” run around campus. Run a little, stop and do exercises or run steps, and then run more. The miles were low but the workout effective.

Total – 3.5 road miles

Day 223 – August 10, 2012

This new teacher stuff is time consuming. I ended up being at school until 8:15 p.m, resigning myself to another very short run around campus before heading home.

Total – 2.5 miles

Day 224 – August 11, 2012

It’s Saturday and time for a long mountain run. But alas, it wasn’t possible. I spent all day in my room at school, cleaning and decorating from morning til later afternoon. Then it was home to mow grass and pull weeds. My road run came with dusk and lots of bugs.

Total – 4 road miles

Day 225 – August 12, 2012

What a beautiful day to worship, and what a beautiful evening for a run. The temps have moderated and the humidity has dropped. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. J

Total – 6 miles
Year-to-date: 1543

Monday, August 6, 2012

Just one more day: Days 212-218

Day 212 – July 30, 2012

I guess today was a little better. My legs still feel dull and my energy could have been better.

Total – 6 road miles

Day 213 – July 31, 2012

Tonight was another small team practice. I am a little disappointed that so few kids are coming out for group runs. Nevertheless, we had a great time running trails. A few of the girls have really showed great improvement and will likely be running with the lead pack given a little more time.

Total – 4.5 trail miles

Day 214 – August 1, 2012

Time to leave for vacation! Before heading off to Gary’s sister’s place on the lake, I took to the roads. Maybe it was because yesterday was my last day of online high school teaching or maybe it was the promise of lazy days on the lake, but regardless, I felt strong as I ran along country roads.

Total – 6 road miles

Day 215 – August 2, 2012

Ah, a good sleep, coffee in the morning, and my first of many runs around the lake. With the humidity so high, it was a relief to be able to jump in the lake when I got back.

Total – 5.5 road miles

Day 216 – August 3, 2012

The route around the lake is a relentless sequence of rolling hills. High temps and humidity made it tough. But there is something about looking at water that makes it feel better.

A blood moon in the evening drew me out the door again for a second spin around the lake. I added a little extra.

Total – 11.5 road miles

Day 217 – August 4, 2012

Another vacation morning. Another run around the lake, but in the opposite direction. It was annoying that some road workers kept following me in their paving trucks. There’s nothing like struggling up a big hill with a steam roller chasing you.

Total – 6 miles

Day 218 – August 5, 2012

More running around the lake. I have been very happy that I have not walked a step on any of the hills since I’ve been here.

Total – 5.5 miles
Year-to-date: 1510 miles

A walk in the park and a pink finish line

By the time I finish most races, I've figured out at least the first paragraph of my post-race story. This was one of the few where the ...