Sunday, March 11, 2012

The little things that make an easy run so Heavenly...

So I've noticed that I usually tend to wait until I have race results to share before I write a blog. I wanted to do things a little bit differently in light of the fact that I have not raced much lately for one, and for two, because I think it is worth talking about the little things that make running so great every once in awhile!!

First of all, just to get the informative portion of this post out of the way, I ended up not competing at the US Indoor Championship in Albuquerque this year. The decision was primarily based on the fact that I was not feeling 100% after competing 3 out of the 4 weekends leading up to the Championships. I had a little knee injury thing going on that I wasn't quite sure would get better or worse if I were to go out there and race a couple more times. Usually I am not so fickle about minor injuries, but in an Olympic year, my focus needs to be on London in outdoors, not Albuquerque indoors. So, I took a week down from training, simply cross training and doing recovery runs while I worked with a physical therapist to figure out what's going on and what I need to do to fix it. Since then, my random shoots of pain have been minimized, and I am back doing workouts once again now, as I officially begin my training cycle for the outdoor season. :)

And now onto the frilly portion of this post...

Some of you may know that one of my many part-time jobs is to be a PCA (or a personal care attendant) for a woman with cerebral palsy. We oftentimes discuss my running while I am working with her, and she inspires me to appreciate my running in a whole new way, given she uses a wheelchair and is unable to run. This past Tuesday, I spent an entire day with her, covering both the morning and evening shifts with a two-hour break in the middle when I could go for my run. As many of you from this area may recall, Tuesday was like, EPIC meltdown day. The sun was out and hot, and whatever snow we had was melting fast. It was a gorgeous day and a wonderful time for me to reflect on how grateful I am to be able to run at all.

My client lives near where I used to live on campus at the University of Minnesota, so running from her place was like a walk down memory lane, and I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by all my realizations and memories along the way. First of all, I was overjoyed to be running in capri tights and just one thin long sleeve shirt. To feel comfortable outside with so little clothes on is just the beginning of the fun we have to come this summer. Then, while I was running in the middle of a street (because the sidewalk was flooded), I came to a point where the puddles were overflowing into the road too, and a car came by with a TIDAL WAVE of freshly melted snow that spritzed me. Some people might argue that it's not fun to have that happen, but for some reason, I felt refreshed and joyful! That puddle meant spring is on its way, and the warmth of the sun made getting a little wet FUN rather than miserable.

The route I took was one of my favorites because it winds around on the top of a hill that eventually opens up to one of the greatest views of Minneapolis. On that bright beautiful day, staring at the cityscape in the distance, I felt a deep sense of pride in the place I live and where I come from, and a stronger desire to represent this place I come from well in my upcoming races around the country and the world.

I think a big reason for me to take so much pride in my home is the fact that I love everyone who lives here with me. On that note, this running route also took me around the cemetery where Jack Johnson was buried (see my previous blog entitled "This one's for Jack!" for more info on him!). It reminded me of a time not long after he has passed away that my teammates and I did a run out to his plot on a Sunday morning, stopped to say hello and a little prayer, and then continued on our run. It means a lot to share your faith and your passion for running with your teammates, and that was a run I'll never forget.

Another joy on the run was when I started running down a steep hill (which was usually when my current knee injury hurts the most), and I felt no pain!! There is nothing better than the realization that you all of a sudden don't hurt anymore, and you don't need to be cautious on a run. Pain-free running is like freedom, it is easy to take for-granted until you lose it.

Believe it or not, there was more. On may way back to my client's place, I decided to take this path called the "diagonal trail." I had done plenty-a-threshold run on that road in my college years, but the one run I remember doing there the most was after church on a Sunday morning, I had my iPod on shuffle, and a great song came on. It's called "Into Marvelous Light", and I suggest you YouTube it or something to listen to it if you're every looking for some inspiration. So on this particular day in my memory, this song was playing, and then suddenly the first few beautiful flakes of winter snow started blowing around on this oddly sunny day. It was a strange and cool experience that I felt like I celebrating, so when the part of the song said, "Lift my hand and spin around, for this light that I have found, oh the marvelous light, the marvelous light!" I literally did skip and spin and throw my hands in the air to welcome the first of our winter's snow. This is probably a "You had to be there" moment, but I am sharing all these little joys for a reason.

Running is amazing. I think when you traverse a piece of land by foot, even just once, the memory is so much stronger than any memory you might make when you're driving through. Somehow, I feel that simply having contact with the ground makes it more meaningful to you. I certainly don't have these vivid memories from every single run, but this past Tuesday, it was amazing how covering my "old stomping grounds" brought back so many memories, and created a few more for me.

These are the things I wish my client can experience. These are the things I wish to share with anyone who decides to start running. It isn't always about the speed, or the competition in racing that makes running so cool. Oftentimes, it's those slow easy miles that are the best, and keep you coming back for so many more.

My client always says the first thing she is going to do when she passes away and goes to heaven, is go for a run. Her idea of Heaven is being able to run. I told her I'd love to take my first run in Heaven with her someday, and I bet she'll beat me;) But until then, I am going to try to appreciate each step closer to London for the Heavenly bliss that it is.

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