Saturday, December 10, 2011

Running Epiphany

One of the reasons I love running is because it clears my head. Occasionally during a long run I will have an epiphany of thought--an aha! moment that allows me to see from a new perspective. While running through Snow Canyon early this morning, I was blessed with such a moment of clarity:

I don't want to run a spring marathon. Or, perhaps more accurately, I don't need to run a spring marathon.

This revelation might seem rather banal for someone in the process of tackling seven hilly, chilly miles. But far from being unpleasant, this morning's run was marvelous. The crisp air, the rising red cliffs, the peace, the solitude--the moment was perfect. Even my iPod seemed an intrusion. This morning I realized that I really do love running--which is exactly why I don't need a spring marathon.

After decades of defining myself as a non-runner, it's taken great effort to redefine my self image. With time, patience, and practice, I think I've finally arrived. Physical exercise has become a piece of who I am. I crave the opportunity to move, and miss it when I don't. Running has become a priority, and I work hard to make it happen rather than simply squeezing it in if I have time.

Race training has provided great motivation along the way, giving me small goals to work for every day in the pursuit of something impossibly big. While training for Utah Valley, I found great satisfaction in carefully tracking my mileage. I needed this tangible proof that I was becoming healthier, stronger, faster. Similarly, I benefited from the accountability that came from sharing my efforts (or lack thereof) with others. Lately, however, I haven't felt the same desire to quantify my progress. Working out is intrinsically rewarding enough that I no longer need to show anyone else (myself included) what I've done.

Thanks to Utah Valley, I learned that even the impossible can happen with enough determination. The marathon was a great experience for me. Even during those last difficult miles, I hoped to run another some day. I still do.

But today is not that day. While running through Snow Canyon this morning, I was impressed that for this moment in my life, training less will give me more. More flexibility. The flexibility to wake up on Saturday morning and decide how far I want to run instead of having it dictated by a training schedule. The freedom to choose whether to run or bike or swim or hike--or even all of the above. Training less equates to more energy, for as invigorating as running five miles may be, running twenty is exhausting. Energy to romp with the kids, flirt with my hubby, fix a healthy meal, organize the closet, or heaven forbid, grocery shop.

Above all, by choosing to forego a spring marathon, I am choosing more time. Time that I can dedicate, at least in part, to serving others. During today's running epiphany, I was reminded of the inspiration I felt last April about developing a Spanglish class. For the past few months I've been fretting about how I can balance teaching and training while still meeting the needs of family, friends, and church. Already I feel relieved that I needn't try to do it all.

This spring, my personal test of endurance will not be about running 26.2 miles, but about seeing this class through to the end. While the number of students may be small, the effects ripple farther than immediately seen. One morning during class, I realized that every woman present was mother to three or four. Even though our group all fit comfortably around a small table, a multitude of children were learning through the examples of their Moms that education really matters.

And so, even though I still call myself a runner, I am setting aside the racing for a time--to make room for more.


Ben said...

Marathon's are just so time consuming! Good decision! Half-marathons aren't bad (says the guy who's only done one.)

As to quantifying... I just got a GPS heart-rate monitor. Now I know exactly how much fun I'm having.

Erin said...

This is great. Isn't it funny how once we figure something out for ourselves it seems so obvious?

Ben said...

Long comment got eaten.

Julie L said...

Wonderful reminder! Good luck with your continued efforts with Spanglish.

candice said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love those 'a-ha' moments when the heavens seem to open for a few short seconds and perspective is given freely.

Jason said...

Oooh, I especially like the bit about having more "time to flirt with your husband"!