This marks a new direction for Run With Mu: I’m going to begin writing this as a private/public journal, still dealing with the same themes as I’ve explored using this blog in the past. It is simply getting more difficult for me to find new specific subjects exclusively about Zen and running to write about – after all, how many times can you say “When you run, just run” – and I feel the blog’s tone has sounded a bit more preachy as of late. There’s also the realization that the mindfulness industry has horned its way into every corner of life these days, with dozens of authors telling us how to walk/run/eat/work/date/etc. more mindfully. I’m not unhappy to see more and more people realizing how positively transformative living in the present moment can be, but, my goodness. What a lot of books.
I didn’t run today. I have decided that to run only every other day, for no longer than four to five and a half miles, is enough. A former ultramarathoner, I haven’t run so much as six miles at a time in nearly 18 months. It was a decision that I always wanted to be just that: my decision, not a necessity or something sadly inevitable. As I said in this blog once before, I always wanted to walk away from racing, not limp away. I have waited since to see if I would regret it. I haven’t.
It’s a decision that comes at a different time, in a different way, to every runner. I remember running ultra marathons with 70 year-old men – not many, to be sure, but a few who kept cheerfully shuffling along and tripping over rocks and roots long after midnight. At one time I thought I might be one of those men. But when I found myself tired, sore and slouching in a chair at an aid station in a meadow near Lawrence, Kansas, not physically unable to start running again but just really enjoying sitting still in the shade, I realized with mild surprise that my decision day had come at that moment, unannounced and unplanned. Then and there, I quit the race, and ended 35 years of racing.
No, I didn’t run today. I sat on the cushion for 30 minutes this morning, as always trying to, as my Zen teacher puts it, “sit without waiting”. I drank a couple of cups of hot black coffee with the back screen door open and listened to some organ music by Bach. I cleared out a flower bed in the back yard, the dirt on my hands still cool from the receding winter, and I installed a new bird bath and feeder and watched a blue jay try to land on the feeder’s perch. Tomorrow morning in the still-cold darkness of daylight savings time I will jog to the high school track, run five quarter-mile repeats, and jog back home. It’s about 5 miles total, and the sun will be creeping into my eyes by the time I cross the main road back to our house. And I’ll sit on the front porch swing for a few minutes like I always do, feeling the sweet burn in my body from the run and tuning myself into the morning.
It’s a good life always, when I take the time to really live it. The sweet sharp smell of the cold upturned soil in the flower bed today felt like yet another small step closer to the real spring, those warmer, thicker mornings and storm-confused afternoons. It’s a real joy to feel the new season just behind me, like footsteps coming up steadily and the finish line in glorious sight somewhere just ahead. May we all reach it at our own chosen speed. And may we see each finish line for what it really is: a starting line in disguise.