Finding a rhythm in the New Year
By Marlene Farrell
January 1st has come and gone, so I should feel settled into 2014. Yet I feel in limbo. Curious to define this disconcerted feeling, I looked up limbo in the dictionary. It comes from the Latin, limbus, meaning border. That resonates. Before crossing over into something new, I must go through a transition period. In the case of my running, 2013’s events are far in the past yet it will be a few months before spring racing starts. Drawing from the other definitions of limbo, I waiver between being in a “state of restraint,” “a state of uncertainty” or, worst yet, “a state of neglect.”
I suppose it’s natural that I go through an adjustment period. It just feels rockier than most years, without the snow to distract. I often happily stow away my running shoes for two months to ski on the beautiful trails near my home. But not this year.
Thank goodness I have my new calendar. I prefer the wall calendar type, with big inspiring photos (my current one is of Olympic athletes). I like its equal squares for every day.
Within those squares, I will scribble my daily mileage, weekly totals, other exercises and a comment now and then. My mileage might be followed by an “!” if I surprise myself with a strong performance. Sometimes I might write “sick” or “windy” to excuse myself for what I consider a subpar effort. If I visit the track I will include interval length and times, but they’ll be tucked off to the side, in a bubble. Because there is so little room.
I’ll squeeze the rest of my life into those little boxes, too. The January boxes are brimming with after-school activities, my writers’ group, ski coaching, meetings, volunteering. To look at a month I can see the big picture of my life, the balancing act, the shuffling and reshuffling, one layer of ink superimposed on another.
I like to flip ahead in the calendar and add races, some I’ve done before, and others that are new. I can pencil in a long or hard race. I know that if it switches to ink then the squares between now and then will form a path. Along the path I will prepare myself for that goal. Such future dates are a beacon, their light growing stronger as the days pass. They pull me out of limbo and into a flow, a purpose.
At the end of each year, when the calendar is frayed and coffee-stained, I will file it away. I don’t need to refer to it, though I could. That is not what I’m after. I don’t want to reminisce about the miles already run. My running stays present and forward-looking. I feel the weight of experience, of self-knowledge, from what has come before. But it is the NOW that has me on the hook, so I want to run again. Even now, my running is developing a new rhythm. I can love it, even on the shoulder of the road beneath a steel gray January sky.
Writing it down is my ritual that illuminates the ebb and flow of my days. Through the act of recording my runs I can be certain that I am unstuck and moving toward my goals. For me at least, that is one definition of happiness.
Marlene Farrell is a Leavenworth writer and long-distance runner who has qualified twice for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She also helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club.