Breaking the routine: The run that lives on

Written on Nov 20th, 2012 by , Category Training

By Marlene Farrell

I’ve got my routines these days. I am comforted by the predictability of running the same route in the morning, the same easy pace, with the headlamp, lost in thought. Or running with a friend, letting the miles slip by. The short days and lack of demanding training goals cajole me into these habits. But at the same time, I return home and jump into the needs of my family, forgetting the run. There is nothing to inspire me or savor throughout the day. The miniature frustrations that accumulate in a day wind me up and I can’t release the tension. I need a break in the routine for that; I need to push to exhaustion or go somewhere windswept and desolate.

A few days ago, I had a few precious hours to myself. It was a wet and cloudy morning, one in which I could easily sequester myself for cleaning, organizing and a bit of writing in my chair by the fireplace. But instead, I abandoned my list of tasks and parked on the road below Freund Canyon.

Julia Cameron writes that one’s artistic self needs time outside, possibly walking. One is supposed to walk “far enough that you feel both your body and mind ‘unkink.’” For me, running is my walking. I’d rather run than walk anywhere and it comes just as easily. That day, Freund unkinked me. Some of my kinking is due to unreasonable expectations. I think, “I should be a good writer, but I’m lazy… Words are my friends, but I’m not creative… I have the discipline to move but not the discipline to sit still.” I almost expect to disappoint myself, to not meet the lofty goals dreamed up in moments of ecstatic longing and the pull of fate.

I recognized the hazardous spiral and forced an escape on Freund. My feet found the rougher rocky or sandy footing when possible. But mostly I slipped up the trail, sliding back and toward the slope. My toes squished inside my sneakers, full of muddy water. I worked uphill, paid the price, felt my muscles strain and recover, as the trail climbed and leveled, again and again. Higher up, I ran in a couple inches of snow, setting my prints next to those of a deer, or a hare.

And back down! I didn’t exactly soar. But I carved around those voluptuous curves, bounded off the crests of the water bars, felt light despite the sucking mud. I was getting muckier by the minute. The air was moist with drizzle. Drifting clouds passed through trees on nearby slopes. Individual trees were in full relief. I felt this desire to reach across the gulf and touch their exquisiteness. Now and then I smiled, in a way I hadn’t done on my ordinary runs. I forgot everything except crashing down the trail, almost hoping for a fall. I could imagine picking myself up, feeling elemental, streaked in mud. But my feet held, my senses gauged the terrain and the end came.

Too soon, just as all great runs end. But then it lived in my mind, throughout the day. I cleaned up and helped in the cheery bright warmth of my daughter’s classroom. But in my mind’s eye was the wild child running down the trail, hair tangled, red nosed, and giddy with joy.

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.

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