Buddha says “Health is the greatest wealth.”
This is the kind of statement that we, The Healthy, can all say with a smile in passing, and the kind that we will allow to ring in our ears haphazardly before we release it on a whim.
Until, we The Healthy, are no longer so.
It is a gift to ask your body to move in any which way, and have it respond without question. To suggest that you can go/do/be/frolic/play/engage as you choose without pre-ponderance, and never have any of these thoughts interrupted with doubt or fear is truly the definition of wealth and well-being.
These exact thoughts have been interrupted for me these past weeks and, though the voices have been quiet, their presence has been a self-induced torture. Literally.
To have health, and much potential beyond it, and to squander it all just for one more minute of running as the sun comes up. Foolish. And punishable by torture for sure.
The inkling of fear and doubt crept up on me one morning about a month back as the sun was rising over Berkeley. I was headed home from the park on the peninsula along the trail, the tall grass waving as I passed, little bunnies and hawks staring at me as pushed my own speed through the quiet and the dust that appeared purple and blue in the growing light. I slowed to take it all in, and catch my breath I felt a tweak in my left foot. Breath taken away, eyes drawn wide. OUCH. I continued home, doubting each step, gingerly picking my way along the path and into the morning.
In the weeks that followed, there was swelling, limping, tight calves, hips and IT bands. Lots of biking and not nearly as much running as I tried to avoid putting constant weight and pressure on this tiny injury that has flipped my whole world on end; I need those morning runs. To organize my thoughts, to clear my mind, to reconnect with the quiet world around me, and to cultivate that strength and self-trust that is as much a gift as the running that breeds it. With each runner that I saw cruise by me, carefree on the trail during those weeks my self-deprication voice grew louder in mind, saying:
“You cannot take the liberty of considering yourself to be a mindful person, Lentine, treading lightly on the world, if you push your body so hard in the name of bliss, to this breaking end.”
I had taken running –and the supple, powerful muscles that provide it – for granted and my only punishment could be taking running away from myself, until I could be better behaved. More mindful, more present in my own body, and got back to the place where I remembered that running was a GIFT and not a privilege.
I took on the Nike Women’s Marathon and, not feeling my best, decided that my running needed ME as much as I needed IT. In the week following the race, I am back in my trainers, and on my training calendar – reading through the workouts but reading between the lines more than I have since I could remember. Morning runs have been getting a few moments of meditation as I scan how my body feels before I head out the door. Once I hit the street, I actually warm up (instead of launching into my sub 8:00/mile and scolding myself if I don’t.) And as my legs, back and heart start to warm, I chat with myself:
“Elbows down, knees up, eyes forward. Be present and aim, Lentine.”
My steps are lighter, and sometimes slower, but I return home with a smile and a clear mind. Into a hot shower to decompress post run. An extra scoop of granola at breakfast, and hearty dinners (like this one) full of protein and carbohydrates to rebuild. Myofacial release, epsom salt baths and arnica massages before bed. I have been trying to make up for lost time with my body big time, showering it with gifts and attention and hoping to pull it back from its depraved state. And, in return, it has been giving bits back to me at a time – a little bit of speed, a lot of endurance, strength and obstacles overcome – day by day, my body heals and I learn to answer its calls for repair.
I have always wanted to run the New York Marathon; it was the first marathon that I ever eyeballed, long before I ever actually signed up to complete it. In less than two weeks, I’ll have the chance to run through the streets of that great city unimpeded, for sure. Not by traffic, but also not by my own mind or body – I hope. Without a goal time, and with the only intention being to finish strong, and with a smile, I cannot wait to land in The Big Apple.
And so, the gift of running is again being received by this thankful little soul, and I am sure that in giving back to myself in return, the harvest to be reaped will continue to grow. 🙂