Journal entry 070210: Experimenting

OK, I’ll go ahead and admit it: There is no logic to running long distances. At least, none that make sense to anyone who doesn’t want to do it.

I can make a list of why I like it – the battle against my own desire to quite early, the peace of meditation-on-the-move, the self-awareness that comes from so much time alone within my own thoughts, the emotional transformation from finishing another marathon, the short list of skills required, feeling the earth under my feet and hearing the buzz of a community, the camaraderie of fellow distance runners telling war stories, the vanilla milkshake reward earned after 15 miles – but I understand none of those are enough for most people I know.

And marathon training, well there is no logic to running 17 miles on a hot Friday morning in June, either. All I say can say is that I still hear the marathon drumbeat in the back of my head and I’m not yet ready to hang up my shoes.

But I cannot forget that I have 35,098 miles on my legs and feet and knees, and like most people I am getting older and slower day-by-day, not than younger and faster.

I once heard Jim Rohn say, “Casual living breeds casualties.” I think one reason I’ve been hobbling on one bad knee since 2004 is that I got too casual about my running. I thought I knew all I needed to know. I stopped paying attention to things like strength training and stretching because I didn’t need them any longer. I was beyond all that simple stuff.

I forgot about what George Sheehan taught us: Our life is an experiment of one. I stopped experimenting. I stopped learning. And, I got hurt. Now I am getting better, slowly, but it took a lot of deliberate action on my part.

For example, I’ve been going to a weight-lifting class a couple of times a week. I never did anything with weights before that and I ended up with a lot of imbalance and weakness. I’m much stronger now, especially in my quads and glutes and back. I believe that will help prevent future injuries and stabilize existing aches and pains.

I’ve also been attending a Vinyasa yoga class about once a week. I spent too many years, about 50, not stretching, and this class has helped me overcome that a little. It has helped me learn better balance, and given me greater flexibility and strength. I even breath better, which has improved my trombone playing. Who knew that would happen?

A few years ago Cyndi and I discovered a technique known as Chi Running. I believe it’s allowed my sore knee to find peace, and taught me how to stop hurting myself in the future. I don’t buy into the chi energy part of the technique, but I do believe that learning to land on my mid-foot instead of my heel has stopped further damage and will allow me to keep running for a long time.

And because of the patient work of Gladys Nichols at Seton Medical in Austin I have strengthened my core muscles and worked to achieve better muscle balance. Before Gladys I couldn’t run more than 5 minutes at a time; since Gladys I have completed one marathon and I am currently training for my next.

Maybe the weirdest experiment I’ve tried in my journey is barefoot running. Well, not exactly barefoot, even though I tried that once and it took the skin on my feet a week to grow back, but I have been running once a week in a pair of Vibram Five-Fingers. I hesitate to call them shoes since they look more like gloves for the feet. They have helped me learn mid-foot landing better than anything else I’ve tried.

And I can’t go on without mentioning Jeff Galloway’s run/walk technique. Once I started using it on long training runs I realized I could finally hope for many more marathons.

So I’m sorry if I am boring you non-distance-runners with this litany of experiments, but I believe in living intentionally, and that means trying new things. Just last week I was reading from a devotional book and it quoted Hebrews 12:2 from The Message and it reminded me of my recent adventures. “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished the race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever.”

The first phrase that caught my attention was “began and finished the race we’re in.” Since I hope to keep doing that for many more years I felt a personal attachment to that sentence.

But the most important phrase was this: “Study how he did it.” I hope I can study Jesus with the same deliberate attention I’ve applied to my running.

I have been doing spirituality for so long it is tempting to get casual about it. But casual living breeds casualties, and I don’t want my life with Jesus to become a casualty; I want to be always learning, always experimenting, always hoping.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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