Going Long

I’m looking forward to warmer weather this weekend so I can go on a long ride or two. Since I’ll be on my own – Cyndi will be in Dallas and I won’t be pulling Uncle Berry duty – I’m planning to get in some big miles. I know it will help me organize thoughts for my next book. There is a photo of George Sheehan showing who I want to be, or think I am - a man, fresh from a long run, spilling out creativity and insight on paper.george sheehan with typewriter

Here’s the thing about long runs or long rides, which in the context of my life and my current level of fitness means being out two hours or longer. Running or cycling so far is much further than necessary for fitness. In fact, it actually hinders fitness since it courts injury and fatigue.

So why do it?

The main reason is to train for racing. Long distances train the mind and body to handle stress and make you a more efficient athlete.

But there is a deeper, spiritual element to it as well. For me, I need to stay out long enough so finishing becomes a struggle, far enough I’ll be a little stiff-legged for the rest of the day, long enough to spend a couple of hours with myself inside my own head.

Afterward, I need to find a place to sit and decompress and write in my journal as soon as possible. I may not write anything about the particular run or ride, but the extended time moving opens my mind and heart in a way I cannot duplicate anywhere else. The creativity buzz I get afterward has as much to do with rarity as with extended effort.

I’ll admit not every mile is fun. When I have the wind at my back and a smooth road ahead and it feels effortless, like gliding, like flying. But turning into the wind or riding on a rough road is never fun. However, and I hate to admit this, but I think the hard miles open up my mind more than the easy ones.

Lately, the only time I can go more than two hours has been on my bike. I miss running long, and I want that part of my life back. I’m constantly working on my gait and pace to get those long runs back in my life.

In fact, I have been running better, lately. Not fast, still hobbling along at 15-minute pace, but three miles or more with no walking. My knees are never comfortable but I’m learning what to expect, how much discomfort I can tolerate, and how to work my form to help them out. I can imagine a future when I’ll be able to run further and faster.

One of the reasons I’m certain this phase of my life isn’t yet over is I haven’t stopped dreaming … of 100-mile trail races and cross-country bike rides. I need to believe I still have those in my future.

But there is still the question: Why do it? For me, going long is an investment of time and energy into creativity and spiritual deepening. There are places my mind and spirit can’t reach any other way. I want more.

There is no joy in life without purpose, no purpose without journey, and no journey without struggle. There must be difficult miles to add value, learning, or growth. I’m looking forward to many more long miles.

QUESTION: How do you feed your creative urge? “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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