Saturday, January 12, 2013

Settling Into a Pace

I went for a run today, my first solo run in a very long time. Honestly, I was a bit apprehensive about it before I started. My hesitance came from not running frequently and the inclination I have to compare where I am now with where I was last year in regards to my fitness.

In any event, I was going. Marcus and I agreed that he would drop me off at the Orange Peel after we ran a morning errand so I could run the 3 or so miles distance back home. I unzipped my white fleece vest and left it in the passenger seat; I wouldn’t need it since the temperatures were already approaching 60 at 10:30 a.m.

I started to run, and I felt a tinge of ache in my right knee. This is something I’ve observed more regularly at the outset of my dance workouts. I worried for a split second about it, then noticed the employee of the new brewery Wicked Weed sweeping up cigarette butts off the sidewalk. And, as it happens, I slipped into a comfortable pace, churning up the slight hill of Biltmore toward Pack Square, past cute dogs on leashes, over top of the textured concrete of the new ALoft Hotel, and the bustling Bomba on the corner of Patton.

I zipped west on Patton Avenue, remembering as much as possible to soak in the perspective of the mountains that nestle this city and her residents close, providing nurturing, comfort, sustenance – like a good, round mother.

I cut through the used car lot and onto Clingman where gravity added ease to an already light run. I hadn’t even broken a sweat.

Over the French Broad on the Riverlink Bridge, I started the ascent of Haywood. As easily as I’d come down to the river, I was met with the challenge of climbing away from it. The gradual hill felt manageable at first, but as it extended beyond my sight, turning in a bend in the road, my mind said stop. And, in response, another strain said “it’s not how fast you get there, it’s that you get there.” Automatically my stride shortened. I took on a measured pace to more strategically tackle the long obstacle of my course.

It’s not how fast you get there, it’s that you get there.”

I was talking to a woman at the Y the other day about hiking. She said she’s all for big vistas with sweeping views. If a hike doesn’t have that, she wants no part of it. Now I’ve always liked hiking in the forest, feeling safe and sheltered there. Despite the fact that I am just as happy without a view or a waterfall as with one, I shared with her a nugget of wisdom from my Appalachian Trail thru-hike that relates to my own revelation today, “it’s the journey not the destination.”

You can start the Appalachian Trail, but never finish it (or not finish it in the timeframe you intend). You may run a race but not finish it at the goal time you set. You may commit yourself to exercise but not see results as rapidly as you’d like.

It’s not how we do any of these things, but that we do them in the first place. That we try is they key, and that, in trying, we focus on where we are at, by noticing our surroundings, greeting people along the way, remembering to make it feel good will get us farther (and ultimately faster) than if we have to stop.

Often the lessons I gain on a run or on trail are messages intended for the rest of my life. I’ve been facing challenges lately that seem like long, winding uphills, where I just can’t see the end of where this path will take me. So I’ll figuratively shorten my stride and settle in to tackle it just as it appears.