This is a running blog, but not the kind you might expect. That’s why I wrote a disclaimer of sorts, just in case you expect me to be a real runner. You can read that here.
Even as a faux-runner, it is not easy to pick a single running event with which to introduce myself. However, there is one race I feel shows my true colors running down the road…
In May 2011, I ran Ragnar New England from New Haven, CT to Boston, MA – That’s 194 miles. Luckily, I didn’t do it alone – 11 people helped me, each running three legs of the overnight relay. We were Team 4: Rolling Like Stones. As of this date, I’ve run four Ragnar Relays. But the New England race stood out as one of my most valuable (and painful) running learning experiences.
(All Photos courtesy of Lindsay).
The person who introduced me to Ragnar considers running a race like this a spiritual journey. I agree with him. There is something spiritual and life-affirming about running a Ragnar. I see a 194-mile foot journey as a great time to reflect on where you are in life, where you are going, how you’re getting there and who you are taking with you. I’m starting to figure out how these four elements come together in the now to define who you are.
I certainly learned a few truths about who I am on this epic relay race, which is why I thought of it as a fitting introduction to my blog.
1) I value my independence.
I want to hold the keys to my own map – somewhere convenient (like on the sweaty underside of my forearm). When I have a destination, I don’t want to take a wrong turn; it’s about getting there as soon as possible, which is probably why end points and deadlines stress me out. I’d rather meander. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible in the real world and life throws me a lot of deadlines, so I scribble directions on my arm and take off full speed ahead.
2) I’m Impatient – and it shows
Even when I think I’m waiting patiently for something to begin, my body language communicates my frustration with standing still. I’m only truly comfortable when I’m in motion – waiting for something to happen makes me feel powerless. More often than not, my impatience brings me heartache. I’ve tried to be more patient in my life, I’ve tried to practice it, pray for it, make it from scratch to no avail. I’m a wildly impatient person.
3) I don’t look back
As I reached for the baton from my teammate, my whole body was already in forward motion. This isn’t because of any need to win a race or the competitive urge to not lose a second transferring between runners, but rather, I knew that there was nothing behind me. I had to look forward – there would be time later to catch up and hear what wonders I missed, but I had put all that aside and focus on only the steps ahead of me, my sights, my adventures, my journey.
4) I never stop
People ask me a lot if it is exhausting to be me. The answer is yes. It is.
When I start running, I don’t stop. I don’t pause to think, to ask questions, to collect my thoughts, to drink water, to talk, to stretch out, to walk…..I know if I were to stop, I wouldn’t start again, so I slow down, but I keep moving and I don’t quit.
5) If its not fun, I won’t do it
Or at least not for long. Life’s too short. Beyond a wholesome discipline, I try to be gentle and kind to myself, to forgive myself, and to pursue my passions.
6) I hate to play referee
I am not a rule enforcer – heck, I barely follow rules myself. I don’t tell people what to do or what to think or how to play nice. It doesn’t mean I’m passive or a confrontation-phobe or a doormat; it just means I expect adults to work out their own issues as adults.
We had a situation on our team in which two people did not get along – at all. It created a lot of misery for the other 4 people in the van. I felt torn, as the team captain and personal friend to both warring parties, I knew handling the situation would require a more delicate tact than I could offer in my exhausted-sweaty-hungry-cranky state. So, I gave it up after a half-assed attempt at making peace. I did not referee. And, in the end, after all 12 of us had crossed the finish line and should be heading off to toast our victory in the setting sun, I left in tears – like the mature and composed grown up I am. Whatever, I cry – in public. I’m over that. And it took me the better part of a year to relinquish the responsibility I felt for mixing Oil and Vinegar in the van together. But, I’ve let go of that too. I do not make rules for people. I coexist.
7) I like to end on a positive note
Dripping with sweat, tired, shaky, about to fall over – I’m going to be smiling. I strive to be a good sport – even if I was passed by 30 people (which kinda happened). It’s not that I’m happy the run is over, as much as I’m happy to have done it. This is a challenging attitude to apply to the rest of life – it means I don’t regret things. I just keep looking forwards and smiling – smiling for what is ahead of me and smiling because I made this far. Why is that so much easier to apply to a race course than the emotional course of events in my life? I don’t know.
8) I’m a team player
The ultimate take-away for me remains the fact that I can’t do this alone. I depend on, trust and respect the members of my team. I value the fact that they choose to be a part of something so much bigger than themselves. I constantly remind myself not to take my teammates for granted, to cheer for them, support them and love them because they are the ones that rush to me – on and off the course – with a first aid kit for a skinned knee or a broken heart.
Of note, but not one of my big self-realization lessons, I learned that I am not a photogenic runner and I make really funny faces when someone tries to snap a picture of me on the racecourse.
Obviously, there is something about Ragnar that makes me go back for more and more and more. I’ll discuss the other Ragnars I’ve run in future posts. I’ll talk about some of my unconventional training methods. I’ll touch on other races, walks and random life events that I just have to write about. You’ll hear about coming back to high altitude after 10 years of living at sea level. And I’ll probably post a ton more wacky pictures of myself and my goofy beagle – the worst running buddy ever.
I can’t promise a great running blog, but if you keep up, I can promise to occasionally entertain, shock or impress you.
Thanks for reading.