My runs have been getting longer over the last few weeks for many reasons. Spring is beginning to hit here in Raleigh as we can all tell by the thin layer of green pollen on everything and soon this thin dusting will turn into a thick green coating. However, I will take it over snow. On Saturday, I found myself two weeks away from my second 10k. I registered for my first 10k, the Old Reliable Run, on a whim and hadn't really trained to run a 10k. At that time, I was running around four and five miles as my longest distances. But, I ran six miles once and decided that I could handle a 10k. Perhaps not the best decision, but that was the decision I made. What is more baffling to me is how I made that choice after my disappointing Autism Run 5k a or so prior registering. At the Autism run, I got a PR but had a horrid race. I went out way too fast, spent a lot of energy weaving through the crowd at the start, and had to stop and walk three times over the last mile. Yet, for some reason, I still thought that running a 10k was a good idea.
I'll admit that I was afraid of not finishing the race and got more worried after the first mile, when despite my best efforts, I went out too fast again. I spent the entire second mile trying to recover from the start, and ended up running the rest of the race too conservatively until the very end, which I still consider to be one of my most fun finishes. Considering how my first 10k seemed to teeter on the edge of disaster, I have been increasing my miles and the difficulty of my courses over the last few weeks to prove to myself that 10k is a manageable distance for me. Also, I enjoy spending a good hour running. Honestly, I think that I need that time to sort myself out, which was certainly the case on Saturday.
On Saturday, I approached my run with a clarity of purpose that I don't find often in my life. I thought about this run for most of the week. I knew exactly when I was going to run, where I would run, what I would wear, where I planned to park. Simply put, my entire plan for Saturday was to run 7 miles in Umstead Park. I didn't care that the temperature was going to drop or that we were supposed to get rain. I wanted to run 7 miles in Umstead Park. And, it was going to be a fan-tab-u-lose run that I need it to be. I wasn't expecting a Whitman-esque transcendental moment, but I wasn't opposed to the idea of one either. I just need to center myself on this run. This run had to be my entire world for just a little while. This isn't meant to sound dramatic, profound, or whatever. It is simply that this run meant more to me than most of my past few runs had, and most certainly meant more to me than most of the things that I have found myself doing recently.
Let me explain it this way, the thing that I enjoyed most about living in Japan was that I could spend an entire day in Tokyo surrounded by millions of people and be almost completely disengaged. It was the most at peace I have ever felt with the world. I used to love to ride the train and just sit . . . and read. I read the better part of East of Eden, Vineland, and To Kill a Mocking Bird on the JR along with many others. Since I've returned to the States, I have become increasingly re-engaged, and unable to disconnect from the world around me. In Japan, if I didn't feel like dealing with something, all I had to do was stop trying to understand. Simply turn off Japanese mode, and I could slip into a peaceful state of obliviousness. Now, I have to work to tune out annoying conversations, people complaining to cashiers about the sale price of two liter bottles of soda, and 24 hour cable news networks. I-pods help, but I can't just pop one in any old time. In short, what I really needed out of this run was 7 miles of me time. I wasn't opposed to seeing people on the trails or exchanging a smile and a wave, but that was the extent of my ability to interact. This run was about me taking the time to prove to myself that I could run seven miles, and taking the time to enjoy running seven mile.
Reedy Creek Rd. near the start of my run.
And, I did just that. I ran my seven miles without really looking at Old Bob until it was time to locate the turnaround. I ran down Reedy Creek Rd. giving hardly any thought to the hills that I knew were ahead of me. I pulled my hat down and concentrated on the path in front of me, but still managed to exchange a few waves and hellos. I enjoyed struggling up hills, working out how to lift my left leg on downhill so my knee didn't click, and keeping the salt from gathering in the corners of my mouth. For one hour and nine minutes my entire world was reduced to this run, one footstep after the other, and was happy for it.
When I got home I plugged in Old Bob and this is the tale he had to tell: