The second day…kind of…

I greet you this morning with arms outstretched in gratitude.

So…I’ve attempted to begin running, again. I first began just one month after my knee surgery in March of this year. I admitted that was a mistake. It was way too soon after the surgery but hell, I was motivated and couldn’t wait to get my dad bod back in shape. I know…the visual. Well, you’re going to have to live with that in your head. No apologies on my part.

A few months went by and I started running again in September and fooled myself again. This time there was no knee pain, for which I have been eternally grateful. There was also little in the way of motivation. Getting up early was a struggle. I also bit off more than I could chew and found myself actually detracting from what little motivation there was because starting to run again at 54 after a year off, well, it SUCKS!!! Moderation is something this cusping baby boomer struggles with.

beach run

Another month went by and I started running, again. This attempt lasted just two days. Motivation had done gone and left the building. I added my runs to “Smashrun” and it was as if the website began to mock me. The Smash Run website has a feature designed to increase or at least help to increase one’s motivation by reminding you that for every day you don’t run, you lose a percentage of fitness and increase the likelihood of dying. Now that last part is not true, but that is the jist. So, when I stopped running again, you guessed it…motivation had once again gotten up and left the building.

After having a gym membership that I paid for a few months…ok…several months…ok…an entire year; God that hurts when I say that; I decided I needed to get my ass out the door and like the slogan for Nike says, “Just do it!” I love this quote from George Sheehan, “Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

This time I decided to go back to what worked almost a decade earlier when I had returned to running after a lengthy layoff. I began by rereading George Sheehan’s “Running and Being.” This, for me, was “the book.” I refer to it as “the book” because it is what shaped my running when I first read it in 1978. It also helped shape my spiritual beliefs and helped me remove myself from the dogma that is organized religion.

Now when I step out the door, I have goals that are realistic and that will help me achieve success. My humble apologies to those runners who I stopped following on social media. Watching posts of “I just ran a 20-miler in an insane time” just wasn’t helping me. I also want to apologize to those runners whom I saw when I was driving to and from my office. I did not intentionally seek to run you over but your graceful stride and smile just pushed me over the edge. Now before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I would never intentionally use my vehicle as any type of weapon. If you didn’ read the sarcasm in this post…well…

When I run, I run for me. I run for the beauty of the solitude. I run for the freedom that George Sheehan wrote about when he quoted Thomas Merton, “Thomas Merton, another solitary, understood that. The beginning of freedom, he wrote, is not liberation from the body but liberation from the mind. We are not entangled in our own body, we are entangled in our mind.” I run to untangle my mind. It makes no difference to me my pace or my distance but to return home and to know the tangled web of thoughts which accompanied me as I left my house is no longer a tangled mess.

By the way, it was 32-degrees when I stepped outside the door this morning.

Namaste

Advertisements

The morning run

A little over one year ago I felt a pain in my knee which forced me to stop running. For a while, it was even difficult to walk.

I began running again in 2009, after having taken several years away from this sport. For me, running had become drudgery. I had forgotten why I was running.

I was never a competitor, against others. I had competed against myself. My runs became more about running faster times. It was in this competition that I had lost my desire to run.

territoryrun_vth_h

I have always been my worst enemy, allowing the thoughts and comments of others to populate and rent space within my head. The worst part is I allowed the rental property to go unchecked for a long period of time. The renters took advantage of my absence and they completely trashed the property. When I finally admitted that it was my absence which leads to the state of disrepair, I felt too sad to do anything about it. Sadness turned into depression and depression lead to inaction. The property went unsold and was eventually taken from the market. This injury, really the first since I began running when I was 16 allowed the same process; the same cycle of degradation to happen all over again.

Several times I watched and rewatched the video “Motivation for Your Morning” from the Territory Run Company.

I fell in love with this company when I first found them on the net. Check them out. If your runs are more spiritual in nature, I think you’ll really like this company.

Anyway, as I watched the video, I began to recall what I love about running and more specifically the morning run. The feeling which arose as I watched this video, the feeling which always seems to return to me when I let go of the need to identify as a particular type of runner was beginning to make its way into that property which had for the last 15 months become dilapidated after so many months of neglect. It felt like a warm summer night sitting on my front porch and in the distance I hear the sound of music as it escapes through the speakers of a car and its open windows. The sound, as it gets nearer becomes a song which I recall with a smile. It reminds me of simpler times and of memories of runs gone by, both good and not so good. I am reminded of the time when I waited by the window for a summer rain to cease or at least abate enough, in my thoughts that it would prove to be a comfortable run. knowing this would not happen, I laced up my running shoes and completed a quick three miler with all the enjoyment of a small child opening gifts Christmas morning. It was running times such as these which allowed the weight of the world to be left behind. My thoughts instead became filled with joy as I stopped on the crest of a local bridge and waited for the sun to rise beckoning a new day; a day like a wet lump of clay on a potters wheel, which could be made by me in any form.

I also began rereading the thoughts of George Sheehan in a book which was one of the most important to me since I was 15 or 16. That book is “Running and Being.” First published in 1978. My copy remains held together with several pieces of scotch tape. I still recall making this purchase at the long-defunct Walden Bookstore. George wrote, “I am a noonday runner.” I, on the other hand, have always been a morning runner. This has been and continues to be, as an Introvert the time of day which I covet. I covet this time of day not only for the solitude which it brings but today, I run at this hour because quite frankly, I am safer during this hour. George wrote, “The best most of us can do is to be a poet an hour a day. Take an hour away from being a serious adult and become serious beginners. Take an hour away from what Shelley called a life of error, ignorance, and strife, and introduce love and beauty and delight.”

One of my favorite quote from George Sheehan’s book is this one. “I am a lonely figure when I run the roads. People wonder how far I have come, how far I have to go. They see me alone and friendless on a journey that has no visible beginning or end. I appear isolated and vulnerable, a homeless creature. It is all they can do to keep from stopping the car and asking if they can take me wherever I’m going.
I know this because I feel it myself. When I see the runner I have much the same thoughts. No matter how often I run the roads myself, I am struck by how solitary my fellow runner appears. The sight of a runner at dusk or in inclement weather makes me glad to be safe and warm in my car and headed for home. And at those times, I wonder how I can go out there myself, how I can leave the comfort and warmth and that feeling of intimacy and belonging, to do this distracted thing.
But when finally I am there, I realize it is not comfort and warmth I am leaving, not intimacy and belonging I am giving up, but the loneliness that pursues me this day and every day. I know that the real loneliness, the real isolation, the real vulnerability, begins long before I put on my running shoes.”

I have attached a link to the video I mentioned earlier. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

//content.jwplatform.com/players/mDLR0SCD-vTGW2TdI.html

I woke with my alarm this morning. Five AM. One of my favorite times of the day. I love and live for the solitude that this time of day brings.

I have been waiting for this day for some time. With it came some fear. I could taste it like bile in the back of my throat. you know that feeling you get when you think you might throw up. I wondered if history would repeat itself. Regardless, I got my ass out of bed and accepted the challenge before me.

running

I also have a healthy level of denial about my age. I’ll be 54 on August 28th. I am thankful that I don’t feel my age and have to be reminded from time to time of my age. The reminder comes in the form of aches and pains from over doing it that I didn’t have at half my age. It’s a good reminder because it keeps from pushing farther than my body is capable and thus avoiding injury. As a result of the injury, I hadn’t run since April 6th. That’s a lie. I hadn’t run since July 15th of 2016. The original pain started the day before yet I pushed through it. Instead of stopping and taking a week off, I pushed through it and returned for more the next day. When I returned home after completing a 10-miler on the 15th, I sat on my porch feeling pretty happy there was no pain. Then I got up and heard a pop in my knee. The pop was followed by pain and a tremendously difficult time even bearing weight let alone walking.

It serves me right. I had been pushing myself through runs. the thought of getting up to run was even painful although this pain being emotional in nature was easier to deny. As time passed the pain also lessened. I thought I was healing and after repeated attempts to return to running even short distances, pain followed.

I sucked it up and scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The diagnosis was a torn meniscus. I pushed for surgery because his original treatment plan was unacceptable. I was not going to stop running. I was not ready to stop running. Surgery followed as did my first attempt, foolishly at running within one month.

path

One year has passed since I ran any distance with the exception of after my grandson or up a flight of stairs. I ran or rather walk/ran this morning. To my surprise, there was no pain. Even better, the love that I had and had lost had also returned. it feels good to be on the path to recovery.

Namaste

It’s time for a change

With hands clasped together in prayer, I greet you on this beautiful day.

A lot has been intentionally crossing my mind as of late.  As winter comes to an end and spring approaches, I have noticed the depression which I have worked so hard to manage during the long winter months has begun to lift. Medication remains a constant but there is also a renewed outlook which has buoyed my determination to continue the fight. Medication has been helpful as has my journal writing. Introspection has returned.

Since the beginning of 2015, I have twice changed employment. The first change found me looking for a challenge and the second was out of necessity for my physical and emotional health and well-being. The first change resulted in a depression which I found myself denying, even after I had left. I found myself in the throes of burnout and experiencing anhedonia-like I cannot recall. I forced myself to run. Running is normally a part of my day. For me, there is nothing better than rising at 4AM and getting in 7-10 miles. My love, my desire to run let alone wake at what some might call “that ungodly hour” had left.

Denial is a wonderful thing, or so we allow ourselves to believe. During the period of forced running, I felt a pain in my right knee. As the pain dissipated within a mile, I continued to run. One particularly depressing day, I completed a run, sat on my porch to rest in the solitude of this early hour and watch the sunrise. I rose, did nothing in particular with respect to movement and felt and heard a pop in my knee. Running without pain was now completely out of the question.

It has been in excess of 250 days since I last took a run.

As I procrastinated, my knee began to feel better. Pain was a thing of the past. A little over a month ago I went for a 3-mile run and was excited as there was no return of pain…until several hours later. The injury remained and it was time to seek a more in-depth intervention other than playing the wait and see game.

I finally met with an orthopedic surgeon, completed an MRI and ultimately was informed the diagnosis was a “complex tear of the meniscus.” The doctor was passive in his attempts to turn me away from a surgical intervention. He also cited my progressing age as a factor to “slow down and find another form of exercise.” I have other forms of exercise but none provide me with the solace that trail running does. There is something magical at rising at 4AM before everyone with sense rises for the day, lacing on a pair of running shoes, filling a water bottle and simply hitting the road. I time many of my runs to be in certain places at certain times so I can catch the rise of the sun.  The run is my therapy while the sunrise is simply a bonus. When I see the sunrise, I think of my maternal grandmother who’s presence embodied all that a beautiful sunrise could be.

There have been many lessons learned over those last two years. I have listened. I hold no remorse for the amount of time which it has taken me to move forward for this is where many of the lessons lie.

I photograph, write and post the results to better understand the journey I’m on — both the literal ones where the Vespa scooter moves through the world and those trickier trips where my mind conspires to understand what the hell is happening to me.  In either case, I’m a spokesman for myself and don’t pretend to offer much to anyone else.

Publishing to my blog as of the last couple of years has been terribly inconsistent. I felt as though a lot of the things about which I have wanted to write did not fit “The Dharmata” very well. I felt as though I had become pigeonholed and subsequently stale. I felt this change needed to take place some time ago and for any number of poor reasons, I never followed through with the change.

I have changed the name of my blog address to thebeardedrunner.net. This is a change GoDaddy tells me is in effect immediately. I hope you continue to follow me on this new path. I plan on writing more regularly about depression, running, the importance of activity in our lives and whatever else come to mind.

In Praise of Running in the Dark

I am usually an early-bird runner. I (very grudgingly and groggily) get up and pound out a run as the sun rises so I don’t have to worry about fitting it for the rest of the day. But there are times when, um, my alarm “malfunctions” or my schedule just doesn’t allow for five miles at 5:30 a.m. When that happens, I used to just take a raincheck for the following day.

But recently, I ran nearly nine miles at 12:30 a.m. in a Ragnar Relay, and was reminded of how simultaneously peaceful and stimulating running at night can be. The motion is familiar, but everything else feels fundamentally different—even if I’m running my most tried-and-true route.

As I head out into the dark, my senses go into overdrive. It’s not just my eyes leading the way anymore. I smell things—hopefully scents like pine needles or a lasagna baking in my neighbor’s oven—more intensely. Even on busy streets, my ears rotate between three sounds: the in-and-out of my breath, the rhythm of my feet, and an overwhelming, lovely slice of quiet. I run through pockets of warm and cold air, which I rarely notice when I’m checking my GPS multiple times a mile. My eyes adjust more easily to the dark blanket than I would anticipate when I’m debating a run in the warmth of my kitchen, and, once I’ve been out there for a few minutes, the blackness turns to shades of gray. (I promise, it always seems darker from the inside than when you’re actually in it.)

Most of all, the darkness allows me to tune in, not out. It releases me of most expectations, and I’m free to just experience the run, step by step. Chasing the spotlight from my headlamp forces me to be exactly present, a perspective that can be so difficult to attain when running in daylight. Calculating remaining mileage or fixating on pace feels almost superficial. Instead, I naturally concentrate on the cool air on my skin, the stars—or if I’m lucky, the full moon—above, and the sensation that I’m supremely, deliciously alive.

When the sun goes down, good things can happen. But bad things can too, unfortunately, so here are a few nighttime running safety tips:

—Light yourself with a headlamp, reflective apparel, blinking lights, and hits of reflectivity on your clothes from a range of angles and positions: front, back, sides, upper body, lower body. Cars won’t be expecting you, so alert them brightly and in multiple ways of your presence.

—Reflective hits are easiest seen on moving parts like your arms, hands, legs and feet. Saucony’s line of Men’s hats & gloves and Women’s hats & gloves is built with reflectivity in mind.

—It’s a cliché for a reason: there is safety in numbers. Recruit a buddy—either the two- or four-legged type—to run with you.

—Go on the defense: run against traffic, behind cars at intersections, and avoid areas that might not be super safe.

—Tell or text somebody your route, and when you expect to be back.

—Carry your phone, and if you must listen to music, keep the volume low and use only one earbud.

—Pay careful attention to footing. Curbs and cracks can be harder to navigate at night; slow down if need be.

Next time you’re bemoaning the fact that your crazy day didn’t allow you to squeeze in your planned lunchtime session, don’t settle onto the couch and into a bag of chips for the night. Gear up and head out; I promise, a run like no other awaits.

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

DIMITY MCDOWELL

Contributor Dimity McDowell Davis is the co-founder of Another Mother Runner, and the coauthor of Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity and Train Like a Mother: How to Cross Any Finish Line and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. (Sarah Bowen Shea is her partner in mother running crime.) Cross paths withAnother Mother Runner on Twitter, on Facebook or on their weekly podcasts on iTunes.

Twitter @dimityontherunDimity’s Website

Running in darkness

My alarm gently prods me awake. It is time to rise. It is 4:30 in the morning. I reach for my glasses and glance toward window knowing it is still dark. 

The darkness comes with the coming of Fall and is upon us with apparent disregard for the enjoyment of the long days of summer. It too is inevitable. 

I groggily walk toward the basement and change into my running gear. Shorts…check. Running shoes…check. Running tights…check. Gloves…check. Garmin…check. Hat…check. Balaclava…check. Headlamp…check. Headlamp?! In an effort to run safely I don my headlamp. It is important to see and to be seen. As I run through intersections I am inevitably asked “Why don’t I run on a treadmill?” The dreaded treadmill or “dread mill” as I has become known to me will only be used when it is too cold, too icey to run outside.

I enjoy running in the dark. I enjoy the anonymity, the silence and the solitude. My running routes too take on a new flavor.

I step outside and it is eerily silent. It is a silence similar to that found early in the morning when the day has already begun to be lighted by the sun. The eeriness arrives with the darkness and does not seem to lift until the sun makes its first appearance of the day.

I take my first steps and head toward the corner. My route lit by the constant glow of the overhead streetlights. My headlamp is not yet needed. One quarter mile later and I begin a sweeping left hand turn. The darkness is now more evident as the overhanging trees obscure most of the light shed from above. In mid stride I reach up and click on my headlamp. The bright glow of the focused beam lighting the way and now my constant companion. There is a measure of security in this beam as I can now see and be seen. 

As I follow the curvature of the streets I find myself settling into a comfortable pace. There is a slight breeze which rustles the leaves. This breeze sounds like the string section if the philharmonic.  My breathing has become easy and I forget about the need to breathe. My breathe is as natural as my stride; it is simply there. Evident but forgotten. 

I turn right and run down an alley. It is darker than the surrounding streets. I feel as though I am doing something wrong. Running in the darkness when others are sound asleep. This thought quickly leaves me as I turn left and now run past a business which is humming with pre-dawn activity. I am not alone but still unaccompanied. My path takes me to a road normally busy with traffic. There are cars but not close to the numbers seen at other times of the day. I cross this street and head to the bike path on the opposing side. Cars race by me but I remain cloaked in darkness. If I switch off the headlamp I cannot be seen as I run just feet from the busy road. When streetlights allow this action to safely take place I will abide. 

Darkness envelopes me as does the accompanying solitude. I make sweeping left and right hand turns and find myself in the home stretch. An hour has flown by and to the East there is a faint light rising above the horizon. Daylight is approaching and with it the busyness of the day. The sound of traffic has increased

Namaste.