Thursday, September 27, 2012

Run Like Gump

I wrote a while back, deep in the midst of my sleep-deprived, insomniac, post-Ironman funk, about how I'd lost my love of running and that troubled me. Melodramatic, yes, but an almost 11 hour race can do crazy things to your mind and body and it hit me hard. Now, a couple weeks later, I'm sleeping again and feeling normal(ish), and to the extent I complained how I'd forgotten how to enjoy running and I'm so slow and wah, wah, wah...well, I'm over myself. And I officially love running again.

How I got my groove back? I've just been getting out there and running without purpose. I've been heading out the door with no plan, just running as long as I feel like, in what ever direction I choose. I've been going slow. I'm not sure how slow, as I haven't worn my Garmin once, but I am sure my paces are nothing to write home about. I stop sometimes, just to look at things like the ocean or the river where the manatees are supposed to be but never are. I'm not running mindlessly, not at all. I'm thinking A LOT when I'm out there (I've always found that my brain works the best when I'm running. The number of legal briefs and arguments I composed in my head during runs along Lake Michigan is staggering). But I'm not thinking about running or triathlon. Big difference. And when I get tired, I stop. A regular Forrest Gump!

I just felt like runnin'

The other night, I had one of those very, very rare runs that you finish and just know you'll never forget. Not because of the speed, or the distance, or really even the destination, but just because it was one of those moments when the sun (or moon) shone just right, when the world looked beautiful and flawless, when things felt effortless, when your mind spilled over with optimism. Maybe it's just the endorphins, but if that were the case, I'd have these picture perfect runs more often. As it is, I can count on one hand the number of runs I've had when I said (and believed), "I am going to remember exactly what this looks like and feels like for the rest of my life." And I have. One was on a crisp fall day, running along the water in Providence, Rhode Island in 1999. One was a humid, dark summer night in Lincoln Park in 2009, just as I turned the corner to see the Chicago skyline all lit up (just like countless other times, but this one was different). And one was a few nights ago, in Cape Canaveral.

I headed out just before dusk with no real plan, just headed in the general direction of the ocean. I zigzagged through the neighborhoods a little, and then crossed paths with this guy:

Random, huh? Yet another bizarre animal that I've encountered this summer while running and just Minding My Own Business. Add that one to the summer/fall of 2012 Animal Encounter List, which now includes elk, deer, coyote, snake, prairie dog, and chicken. And cat and dog, but those don't count. Guess getting out of the city has changed things a bit.

I continued on after a photo shoot, heading closer to the beach.

And when I got there, it was something about the way the sun was setting, the gentle breeze, the warm temperatures, the utter quiet except for a few sea gull calls and the waves crashing on the beach.....I just had to be in that water. Improper swimming attire (i.e., running clothes), be damned. I kicked off my shoes and socks and headed in.

I thought I'd just take a dip, but once I was in that ocean, I wanted to stay in for the night. I floated on my back for a while, staring at the sky, letting the waves crash over me. Then I swam around a little. Floated some more. Then I started playing, the way I used to when I was little and down here visiting my grandparents. I tried to jump over the waves. I'd turn around, and try to get them to carry me to shore, then run back out into the surf. Then I floated a little more, letting the salt water keep me buoyant, clearing my mind, releasing all my anxiety, at least for a little.**

**(Disclaimer: I feel a little like a jerk even admitting I have anxiety about my travels and the choices I've made about my career and my life, as I know I am extremely, extremely fortunate, am living a dream right now with no real responsibilities, and I should be happy happy happy every minute, rarely works that way, and I'm sorry if I come across as ungrateful, that's definitely not the case. /apology)

Twenty minutes later, it was getting dark, and I reluctantly pulled myself from the water, put my shoes back on and resumed my run, heading a mile or so down the beach on the sand. I was dripping wet and the positioning of the sand between my toes was somewhat less than ideal, but I felt weightless, euphoric, at peace. The rest of my run, I just reveled in the sights and sounds and ran happy. It ended eventually, as all good things do, but I slept easy and well that night. It was, in short, the very rare, absolutely perfect run.

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