What I've Learned While Grounded

Here is the good news: I have finally been released by the Wound Management Department of Midland Memorial Hospital after spending every Monday morning with them since April 22nd. I hope they mail my diploma soon. Here is the bad news: Well, not so bad, really, but not what I was hoping for – I am still grounded from running or cycling until September 16th.

The doctor asked, “Can you hold out one more week?”

I said, “I’ve been uncharacteristically patient and obedient so far, what’s one more week.” I’m still trying to act like a grown-up through all this.

My 150 Days of Grounding happened because of a bike crash on March 4, and physical healing takes a long time. I’m anxious to get back to moving again.

I’ll be the first to admit – well, not actually the first, but one of many – I am not a natural runner. In fact, I’m surprised running is still so important DSCF0688to me. Not one person who knew me before age 22 would have predicted I would choose to do anything physical, especially for 35 years.

Well, again, not exactly correct. I enjoyed cycling in high school; I even rode from Hobbs to Artesia, New Mexico with my friend Doug White, about 80 miles. We only did it once.

But it was running that captured my imagination and changed my heart. I started running in 1978, the summer before my last year of college, because I thought it would help me win the heart of a girl. I kept it up once I got back to OU, with a friend, Charles Calvert. And then I never quit. Running taught me how to lose myself in meditative encounters with God and I’m not the same man I would have been without it.

I recently read a great book by journalist Jim Axelrod titled, In The Long Run, and in it he described what happened when his father started running in 1976. Axelrod could have been describing me.

“The running boom was perfectly timed for him. It couldn’t have fit his personality better. Running didn’t require teammates or partners, like softball, tennis, or golf. Running depended solely upon him. Running had a simple calculus: what you put in, you got out. He needed a transaction like that in his life – immediate and dependable. Running allowed him to sweat his anxieties, disappointments, and fears right out of his system. It was also quantifiable.”

I was drawn to running by the same qualities that attracted Axelrod’s father. It was something I could do alone. Not only that, I could get lost in it. I could release my mind while running and let it shake off anxieties, burn through anger, and roam in imagination. At least 75% of all creative ideas I’ve had in my life came to me while I was running down the road. I started carrying notecards and a pen to record my thoughts until I ruined too many cards with sweat. Then I began carrying a handheld digital recorder.

And running produced a quantifiable number every time I went out. I started keeping a running log very early in my career and I have records going back to 1978. What could be cooler than that? Almost nothing. (As of my Day of Grounding, I’d run 36,721 miles in 7,345 actual days, going through 50 pairs of shoes, all but five were New Balances.)

monthly graphSo during this long sedentary summer I learned a few things about myself. First, my writing suffered. I don’t know if it’s because my feet aren’t moving, or my heart wasn’t’ beating as fast, or I simply missed the daily discipline, but my creative process took a huge hit. Writing has been more of a struggle than it should be.

Second, I have increased in convexity, and it isn’t a pleasant experience. I realize I should have cut back on eating, since I wasn’t burning as many calories, but it seemed like I’d already sacrificed enough in the name of wound management without giving up food, too.

And third, my knees and right foot have been even more of a bother than they were when I was running regularly. They are stiffer and ache more often in spite of all the rest I’ve given them. Apparently use-it-or-lose-it is true.

One more observation. Even during this long down time I’ve been drawn to books and podcasts about running. I have especially enjoyed listening to stories from ultramarathon trail runners, as in, people who do 100 miles or more. Rather than drift away during my down time I drifted toward. I suppose God hasn’t released me from this part of my life, yet. He still has more to say.

QUESTIONS: What is it for you? What drives your creativity? What pushes you toward God?


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

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