Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cool Running and Community

Cedar Valley Trails
What a gorgeous morning! 54 degrees, sunny, and breezy. Absolutely perfect weather for a long run. This kind of September morning is so refreshing after the heat and humidity of the not-at-all distant summer. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I serendipitously met a good friend out there on the trails, and as I was eating breakfast and trolling the 'net, saw that a few others had already gotten in double-digit miles before 10 a.m. too! Rock on runners!! Whether you're training for one of the many fall races (Park 2 Park, Twin Cities, or the Des Moines marathons) it is so cool to see so many people of diverse abilities enjoying this sport.

Last week I ran my first "long" run since the month I took to recover from the San Francisco marathon. It was okay, and during the week, the two other runs that I had given myself were pretty good. I made them quality: a mid-distance 8 miler on Tuesday and intervals on the treadmill on Thursday. I thereby adhered to my 3-run/week limit. And I feel smug about the treadmill intervals, since the treadmill surface is easy on the joints.

Today's plan was 14-15 miles, easy. I'm still getting my body back to well-oiled rather than squeaky. After five miles in, my Dan Savage Podcast had just ended, and then lo! My friend appears in the sunshine. Even better, she and her dog were just beginning their long run! So I turn around, and the three of us run together, catch up, and in no time, eight miles are behind us. I miss running with people. I love running by myself, but I love sharing the sport too. I miss the intimate communion that running with people facilitates. Truth be told, the organic conversations that happen over long distances are the best kind. No pressure on time, no interruptions from waiters, no distractions besides scenery and feeling our bodies working.

People find community in all sorts of places. Work, school, faith organizations. Religious institutions seem to provide many with a sense of communion with others, with shared being, that makes them feel believe in something greater than his/her individual self. This feeling of shared intimacy with many is addicting because we are social animals. I've posed the question to friends before: what replaces church/faith meetings and church families? What, besides social pressure and belief in God can get people to get together and reflect together, unpressured by wanting some kind of tangible result? I am unconvinced that volunteer organizations, despite all their good work, provide the same kind of communal meditative experience. I also don't know of secular organizations or teams that take care of their members until the end of life. I wish there were alternatives, because I think people, whether or not they believe in God(s), need to share intimate reflection unhindered by the mundane in order to regroup, refresh, and be whole.

I received a lot of emotional strength from my shared run today. And I have received a lot of emotional support from those who have donated to Bolder Options and are sharing the training experience because they are literally invested in the worthy cause. It's amazing to me that already, through the community of friends and supporters, I have surpassed the fundraising goal. That's what community is all about!

I heard the bells of the Lutheran church toll 9 a.m. as I came to the trail that ends by my house. As I write this now, the UNI campanile chimes in response to the Methodist and Catholic bells that call to sit inside and reflect. Nature is my church. Running outside prompts my reflection. And it's even better when shared. Sharing and voicing reflection enhances it, as is witnessed every week in faith services. Why not be outside, listening to the breeze rustle through tree leaves? Watch the play of sunlight dance through the branches onto the trail. Smell the hint of pine needles, fresh rain, and early stages of organic decomposition of leaves already fallen. Feel the softness of wet earth underfoot. And smile knowing that you have communion with friends who are also out there-- running.
Big Woods Lake, Cedar Falls

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