What was the best idea you ever had? That’s a question asked by Twyla Tharp in her book, The Creative Habit. It isn’t an easy question to answer.
This past week, Tuesday evening, I went for a run through my neighborhood, in the cold wet dark, about three miles (well, OK, it was 3.06 miles), and it was incredible. I’d watched the cold rain falling outside my office window all day, and watching it fall was all I could do from the 19th-floor … you can’t see it landing on anything at all. I was bummed because I didn’t ride my bicycle to work, one of my goals for 2017, and going for a run salvaged my attitude. It was crisp and cold and wonderful and one of my best runs in months.
I often look forward to running in the cold. Maybe because I don’t live in a place where I do it often. Here in west Texas it’s a rare treat, maybe one or two opportunities a season. I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy the cold as much if I lived somewhere that gets extremely cold and stays cold a long time, like where my cousin lives in Minot, ND, but I don’t live in a place like that for (at least) two good reasons: (1) I want my cold weather in small moderate bursts, and (2) I would be single.
Running in cold and dark feels cozy and intimate, quiet and personal. For one thing, there are few others out on the road so I have it all to myself, and for another having my hood pulled over my head eliminates outside world distractions. It’s like a safe cocoon.
I first started running in May 1978, between my first and second senior years in college. If you had known me before then you would’ve never suspected I would do something like that. I was never an athlete; I was never even interested in that sort of thing. For me to begin running, on my own initiative, was unannounced and unpredicted, an original decision, and it turned out to be the best idea I had in my life.
What made it my best idea? Well, to begin with, it was how I reestablished my dating relationship with Cyndi, a deliberate action on my part to win her back from a track-and-field boyfriend. And that eventually led to our marriage which has now blossomed for 38 years. I am thankful for that every day.
Once I started running I never stopped. I’ve spent hundreds of hours running alone, and to my surprise all that time on my feet became a private meditation. It was the catalyst that moved me toward a deeply personal contemplative faith that strengthens my life even today. Almost every spiritual insight I’ve had happened while moving my feet down the road. I’ve gone out running dozens of times with the specific intent to hear from God about an upcoming decision or particularly sticky relationship, and he has spoken to me time and time again during those miles.
Because Cyndi I both enjoyed running, it became a lifelong adventure for us. We try to work in a run wherever we go - most recently, near the Sea of Galilee in Israel. We’ve run in Hawaii, Kenya, Denmark, Singapore, and China.
To my surprise, I learned to love running long distances. Marathon running permanently changed my self-image, and taught me courage and perseverance.
Running provided my first opportunity to write stories for other people to read, in The Rundown, our club newsletter. With that beginning I’ve published a weekly blog since 1998, and published three books (so far).
Running also led to my love of parks and trails, which landed me on the Midland Parks & Recreation Board, and eventually to twelve years of elected service on the City Council.
Nowadays I love to go hiking and backpacking, but I can’t imagine doing either of those if I hadn’t run all those miles. And I doubt I would have tried cycling if I hadn’t been a runner first.
This morning, Saturday, I ran for about four miles in Ft. Worth, my first time on the Trinity River Trails System. I ran along the Clearfork portion of the trail, near Mellow Johnny’s, and thoroughly enjoyed being around so many other runners, walkers, and cyclists. I love breathing the adrenaline-soaked air. It is contagious.
The curious aspect of my life as a runner is that I was never very good at it. I doubt I had the ability to be good even if I’d trained like an Olympian. But the idea to start running was one of the best, if not the absolute best, idea I ever had.
How about you? What was the best idea you even had? How did it change you?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32