When I first started exercising and dreaming of weight loss, I started also reading autobiographies about fellow dreamers. Books like The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl were inspiring because they were about real people who succeeded, stumbled, and had real world goals. I tried to read one about an Olympian, but soon gave up because I just couldn’t connect with that lifestyle or see potential of following it. After five months, I attempted my first 5K run (Starlight Run) and a new life was born. I kept going to the gym, started running a lot more often, and focused my reading on runners, like Second Wind about a mid-life crisis that is resolved through completing (not winning) a half-marathon on every continent. I signed up for Runner’s World Monthly, along with a bunch of online blogs and email newsletters, and devoured the stories for their inspiration. After a couple of years, I even started to think I had my own story that could be on those pages and wondered what the ending would be.
One of the later books in this journey was What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The author, Haruki Murakami, was so intentional about his reflections in his marathon training that I was again inspired. This time it was not about getting faster, thinner, or out on the road more often. Instead it being aware of what was going on while those shoes were hitting the pavement. So since then I really have tried to think when I run. Crazy concept I know. In this little experiment, I’ve also realized running and racing involve two very different wavelengths in me, even if the physical process is basically the same.
What I think about when I’m running:
- Is there a Heaven? – for some reason this has been a bit of existential wondering ever since seeing a painful scene during The Hunger Games
- How should I respond to Student A’s question / co-worker B’s email / supervisor C’s drop in? – sometimes I work out the conversations that will take place on Monday and sometimes I argue the conversations that will never happen (like if Student A is being extra twerpy but I can’t respond in kind)
- What would it be like to live on Hawthorne, in Laurelhurst, or along the waterfront?
- How can I find people to run with, either friends or someone more?
What I think about when I’m racing:
- Catch the blond – this was the method to my madness during the Shamrock Run; trying to catch up with and then pass skinny blond women with pony tails
- 1:10 – this was my goal time for the Bridge to Brews 10K yesterday
- Where is that stupid finish line? – another major thought on Sunday after I had counted five turns at the end of the course but there was no finish line until after an unexpected sixth
- Why am I doing this? – somewhere in the middle of every race, I question the sanity of paying money, to get up early, to drive to another part of down, to run and get sweaty
- Why are there walkers near the front of the pack? – the organizers are so intentional and verbal about asking people to line up by intended pace, but there are always packs of women (sorry friends) who ignore the directions and line up in a pack of five to walk together; I love the fact they are out there too but not the fact I’m trying to get around them without getting run over myself
- How did that woman with the stroller just pass me on a hill?
- Road Kill – this is a phrase I learned from Hood to Coast; it refers to when you pass or are passed by another runner
As you can see, not many deep thoughts during a race, but there is a lot of music (all Taylor Swift this Sunday), some clarity by taking a break from deep thoughts, and the challenge of a clock that is ticking away.
At a meeting about a month ago, a co-worker described her musical hobby as something that came out of being asked if she could do anything with her life, what would she do. Of course I asked myself that question during her presentation and was surprised when the answer back was “run”. Now I don’t think I’m headed for the Olympics any time, but maybe I can somehow combine this internal answer with an external one I received a few months ago, “write”. I’ll have to think about during my next run.