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My training plan for June’s 100-miler called for a 24 mile run yesterday.  As a result of the week’s events here in Boston, my training had been a mess, so I was determined to get my long run in.  Jess was kind enough to take the kids out for the day and leave me to my running.

My goal was to run slowly, somewhere in the 10:00 per mile range, to begin the physical, and more importantly psychological adjustment to running at a slower pace than I am used to.  It’s been a tough week here in Boston.  Last Monday’s bombings went right to my heart.  That, followed by the shootout late Thursday night where one brave officer was killed, the lock down of the Metro-West area on Friday and the eventual capture of Suspect #2 Friday night, has made the week a bit of a roller coaster to be sure.  Although I was able to keep #AutismStreaks going, my mileage was minimal.

When my feet finally  hit the pavement yesterday, I knew almost immediately my plans for the run were changing.  Earlier in the day the London Marathon was run, thankfully without incident.  For whatever reason, maybe it was that the Boston Marathon was still fresh in my memory, I just knew that I too would have to run a marathon – and so I did.  I worked my way to the Boston Marathon course and was pleased to find other runners who had the same idea.  Throughout my 22 miles on the course, I chatted with several runners, all of whom, out of some mystical drive had decided that on this day running 26.2 miles was important.  Some may have been running to show support, others may have been running to show defiance.

Me?  I was running for the spectators, the organizers, the security, the runners. I was running for the heroes, for the doctors, the police officers, the citizens who ran toward danger instead of away from it.

I was running for running.

There was something in the air, because every runner I passed made eye contact and nodded – an acknowledgment of unity, of brother and sisterhood.

At about 18 miles into my run, I passed a car at a stop light.  The windows were closed, but I could see the driver’s Boston 2013 jacket.  I shouted something, and pointed at him and continued on.  Moments later when he passed me, he rolled down his window, beeped and gave me a raised fist of defiance.  I did the same and then wept over the next half mile.

***

What was I looking for out there yesterday?
What did I find?

Early in my run I passed a Church that was just letting out of service.  I have not had a relationship with the Guy Upstairs in quite a while, and although I am currently a non-believer, I think I understand why people have religion.  The parishioners were smiling, speaking happily with each other.  Whatever their pastor had spoken about had obviously done some good.  As I watched them smile and chat, I realized that I too, in my own way, was attending church.  I found myself smiling, despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, that I was pushing my body.

There is a certain peace one finds on the pavement (or trail as the case may be).  Whether running with friends or running alone, the very act of running, to me, is an act of affirmation; affirmation that I am alive, that I can achieve, that I can overcome.  It doesn’t always make me feel 100% good about whatever predicament I may find myself in, but I don’t think any religion or philosophy can do that.

What did I find out there yesterday?

I found a certain amount of peace.

I found the desire to just be.

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After 26.2 miles – 3:50:56

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A few days ago I was out for a run when I caught a glimpse of myself in a storefront window. I was still in the warm up miles of my run and it showed. I looked tense – shoulders scrunched up, arms tight and stiff. I thought to myself, “relax!”. It wasn’t happening. I passed another storefront window and stole a glance. I looked even worse. As I continued along I took a deep breath and then another. I took myself back to my kung-fu days.  I could hear Sifu Steve going through the meditation process with us at the beginning of class:

Control your breathing.

Check.

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Got it.

Find a focal point to concentrate on, but stay aware of everything in the room.

It was kinda working.  I could feel my shoulders lower, my arms loosen up.

Now close your eyes and listen…

I started to close my eyes.

Whoa!  Not while you’re running, you idiot!

Now close your eyes and listen…

I looked around.  Long straight away, no traffic, no other runners, a full 3/4 of a block to the next intersection.  I let my eyelids fall and ran about 10 paces.

Listen to your breathing.

Almost instantly my entire body relaxed.  I opened my eyes and found myself both at ease and fully alert.  Over the next 4 or 5 miles I found myself in an almost meditative state – relaxed yet aware – flying (that’s what it felt like) along at a much faster pace than I had intended when I went out.  My mind was practically empty, almost zen-like, as I floated through the streets of my town.  Obviously I had to stay aware of traffic, but for the most part, I was able to listen solely to my footfalls and breathing, intertwined in their rhythm.  Inevitably I came to an intersection where I had to stop and the spell was broken.

I’m hoping I can find a way to replicate this experience the next time I run.

I’m thinking that I may try to expand this running with my eyes closed thing beyond just running.  Taking a moment to reduce the data input, listen to my breathing and footsteps and then refocus.   Probably not a good idea to try it while driving a vehicle, but maybe during high stress moments in the day.

Close the eyes, control the breathing, relax the shoulders.  Open the eyes and fly.

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