A few months ago I ran a half marathon. Because I had lost training time with a sinus infection, the race was long and hot and arduous. For the first part of the run I was cheerful and excited to be part of something, noticing the trees and other runners as I moved along the track. Then somewhere around mile four as I started to tire I decided to strategize. “ok, for the next mile I will follow my breath” and “now the next mile, I will bring my attention to my feet”. I was still fairly cheerful at this point and thought it constructive to make these little projects for myself. After another mile or two, these projects started to break down. By the time I hit mile eight I was totally frustrated with myself and in a fluctuating state of wanting to quit, pushing myself a little more, and total anger with myself. It was a very uncomfortable place to be, knowing that I had come too far to go back but that I really did not want to run anymore. And then something new in the last two miles. All of that chatter and bargaining and strategizing fell away and there was just the running. I had all these thoughts but not one of them was actually me, none of them stuck, they all seemed to drift away and the only thing I was left with was what I was actually physically doing. Running.
I’ve heard that when we look out a window and see a bird, we say to ourselves “That is a bird”. But we don’t need to do that in order to experience the bird. We don’t even have to know what it is called to appreciate its diving flowing truth.
By the way, somewhere around mile nine a woman who was cheering on runners from the side of the road yelled “Hey 8512, you’re last and you’re loving it!”. I looked at the number pinned to my chest. 8512. I looked back at the other runners behind me. I was not last. I was not loving it. I looked at her. She held a sign that said “I was drunk when I made this.”