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Posts Tagged ‘Running’

Scènes de ma course du matin:

Morning fog creeping over low pastures and seeping into the road

Fungal sunrise

Preparing horses for polo season next month

Farmer made hay this week

Dragonfly mating season

Unflappable turkey buzzards

Thank You, God, for the joie de vivre of running, of freedom, of health, of vibrant life. Merci pour my quiet mornings with You.

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I am blessed to live and work in a place where I can slip away to the beach for an extended lunch hour, if need be.

Need be often.

We have FINALLY kissed off winter here. I have entered the season of sleeping with the windows WIDE open so I can fall asleep to the song of the crickets, arise to the bright, cheerful sun, and trust that if it’s going to rain, it’s gonna RAIN torrentially in this subtropical climate then git along and give way to the sun again.

What I forgot when I slipped away last week for said lunch hour, was my sunscreen.

Shee-yit. (I am not cursing, um, this is my dialect, right?)

It was only an hour, and I was there for a very, very worthy cause, believe you me.

I even stayed in my work clothes, not one stitch removed (collective gasp).

Problem was, it was windy as all get-out. This seemed friendly enough until I sat there the first few minutes and realized the fine, sugar-white sands were painfully whipping at me with great speed.

This stung.

I turned my chair after the first 30 seconds and endured a bit more, before I turned my chair again, away from the onslaught. I tucked my bag under my chair so grains of sand would not scratch my cell phone buried deep within, or get in the pages of my monthly devotional, or find their way into my beloved change purse I bought from the Insectarium in New Orleans (where I hide my tiny iPod shuffle which contains the secrets of my heart).

I finally adjusted to a direction where I was at least oblivious to most the pelting sands, to where I could collect myself and pray and think and relax and indulge…and veg. “Funny how your feet, in dreams, never touch the earth…”

That day last week marked the one-year anniversary of my fading in and out of consciousness as I was rushed from one hospital to another, where they performed what I was later told was known in the trade as a “slash-n-gash,” a last-ditch effort to save a life of one bleeding internally. Spare no décorum, they sliced me open, hoisted aloft my intestines, vacuumed out the blood and gore, and hoped I came to.

And by God’s grace and the prayers of the saints, I did.

I continue to be guts-challenged, but am a living testimony to the wonders of modern medicine. And while things have never quite been the same, I have been able to resume most of my normal routine, including running, parenting, wifery and other antics.

So I cruised down to the beach that day to thank God for sparing me, for giving me another year of life. It was awesome.

I cried out to God for taking the child a year ago that day who had a nonstop flight to Heaven instead of having a layover with us here. It was grievous.

I celebrated all things saved, and mourned all things lost.

Why me, Lord?

I watched the seagulls petition me for my lunch; no dice. I watched tourists play chicken with the waves. Waves: 1; Tourists: 0.

I watched the fishermen catch supper. I watched the sun go from over here to over there. And the sea laughed when a higher wave washed all too close to me and my chair with my bag underneath, and made me quickly pick everything up and hightail it about 8 feet north so I didn’t get soaked.

That was when I noticed the sand-drift, like a snow-drift. The wind had been blowing so hard, my bag underneath was all but buried in sand. The act of picking it up in haste to move away from high tide caused even more sand to fall into my bag. I didn’t care what the people behind me at the stoplight thought on my way back to work; I took every item out of my bag and diligently shook out the sand (we just did an analysis of my front porch; perhaps an analysis of what’s in my bag should be forthcoming).

And snap my WonderBra and call me astonished…I did the same when I got home and discovered that sand had invaded the netherparts of my body, despite being fully dressed. In work clothes. In the tightest of crannies. Wth.

Glory be, for the last 5 days I’ve been afforded the luxury of not needing a necklace. You see, on that day, I wore my string of pearls. I am not the type to think about removing it (my alma mater was known for us girls wearing pearls-n-sweats to class). Thus, in that li’l ol’ hour, Mr. Sun blessed me with a gentle sunburn which outlined my pearl necklace, causing me to appear as though I was wearing my pearls, 24/7. This came in handy on opening day.

Was it worth it? Y’all betcha!

Thanks, God, for yet another new lease on life, for saving me over and over and over again. For allowing me to live to experience the discomfort of sand in my bra and the pain of sunburn and the sting of loss. And for the satisfaction of living to tell all about it.

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very deeply…and my lungs gratefully drank in every molecule of fresh sea breeze, walking the beach. The yellow flag corresponded to the rougher-than-usual waves. It would have been nice to do some boogie boarding, but even though the air was 75, the water was less than that. Too chilly for me, but not for several brave souls, some of whom were bikini-clad snowbirds and undoubtedly from regions northward. To them, this was winter bliss.

And yesterday I saw a new sport: Beach Frisbee in the fog. This was very interesting to watch, and I’m not sure I was quite able to watch all of it, the fog was so thick. Today was much better, though – bright sunshine and a south wind brought us perfect weather -you, friend, and me – to hang out together on our beach chairs. There were enough auger shells washing up at our bare feet for both of us to make an interesting mosaic.

Hey, dear friend…and happy New Year to you. Thank you for inhaling the sweet warm winds here with me, leaving behind all the toil and chaos of the holidays, shall we? It was delightful, but like all good chaos, it is nice in some ways to return to the anchor of routine. Thus I shall go Tuesday.

Here in the deep South, every occasion signals certain food-related traditions. New Years is no different. On this first day of the year, we eat black-eyed peas for good luck, greens for wealth, and cornbread represents gold. Our next culinary tradition will involve King Cake, for Mardi Gras. More on this anon. The South is a nonstop parade of Very Important Occasions, none of which would be complete without food. Really fabulous food. Do not wonder why states in the South consistently rank highest for obesity. It is decidedly poor breeding and manners to refuse food offered. You simply must have some. And you are never sorry, it is always so, so good. I’ve figured out portion control is key, however.

And exercise. It’s okay to partake in all this good stuff and then park on the rocking chair on the front porch to wave at your neighbors going by. As long as you eventually get up and join them as soon as your food settles…because the neighbors going by are walking their dogs or biking or running or such – they are exercising in one form or another. Well, most of them. Okay, well probably not most of them, if the obesity stats are valid. Anywhoo, we still sit on the porch and wave at folks. And they wave back.

I am one of the post-meal-post-rocking chair movers, training for a half-marathon coming up very shortly (ten miles is Monday’s assignment). It is not my first, and the last one I did, I did 3 years after my first marathon. I did the marathon in honor of our child with Down syndrome, and he ran with me the last 2 blocks, crossed the finish line, and received my medal. I figured if he could run the kind of marathon he does every day battling his mental and physical health challenges, I could push myself to do some small token of what he accomplishes. Speed demon I am not:

Don't wait till life's finish line to get around to what you want out of life! Give it a shot - NOW!

The thing is, I have asthma. Shielded from all manner of athletics as a child out of my parents’ fear of asthmatic complications, I was never permitted to know exercise as a part of life. Then in 2003, while pregnant with child #3, our child’s occupational therapist prodded me one day, insisting I, too, could complete a marathon. I thought she was crazy. But she handed me a training book, cheered me on, and before I knew it, I had gone from running between our mailbox and the neighbor’s and pooping out the rest of the way, to running two mailboxes away, then three, then around the block, then around bigger circuits, until the goal was within reach.

Somewhere in the middle of that I popped out a 10# 7 oz baby, with much ease, thanks to the ongoing training (childbirth is an athletic event, I am convinced). Ironically, the more I ran, the more I found my lung capacity increased, and I relied less on my inhalers and had fewer asthma attacks. And I hatch my best ideas on my runs.

Oh, and I do not run the whole way, like those go-getters who actually run entire distances. No, I’m the tortoise plodding along at a slow jog as you pass me at a good clip. Yes, I even WALK parts of the way. Run 3 minutes, walk a minute, or whatever pace works at any particular moment. I’m also the one passing many runners at the 25 mile mark, when all their insistence on running the whole way gives way to inevitable fatigue and pain. I pace myself, and along with my trusty iPod, slow and steady wins the race. Well, um, finishes the race, anyway. Good enuf for me.

Such is the nature of achieving any goal. Believe + start small + allow yourself days to go backwards, as long as most of your days are forwards. I don’t know what your resolution might be, but whatever it is, don’t give up. And if you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for the sake of somebody else who believes in you.

Because Somebody does, whether you realize it or not.

Inhale deeply, get the most out of each life-giving instinct you have to do good, to go forward. Feel the oxygen…feel it energize and propel you forward into your destiny to make yourself and the world a better place.

Breathe with me, here at the seashore…

God, thank you for every breath, for every friend, for every opportunity – give us wisdom and motivation to do our very best…for You.

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I suppose it wasn’t really there after all. I must have been daydreaming. When you’re hanging at the beach, some things just kind of blur together, like the pod of dolphins the other day at one point clearly being a pod of dolphins, gradually fooling the eyes into trying to decipher what was bottlenose and what was fin and what was tall wave. The playful animals somehow melded into being waves. Eventually when the excitement wanes and you start questioning your own senses and sensibility, you learn to quit looking, and refocus anew on what is, on what was, to begin with.

I thought I saw a ship, of great proportions, traversing the horizon. It had a bright color that caught my eye, contrasting from the sea, and maintained a steady path, as long as I dared to watch.

While it caught my gaze, I imagined where it came from, how long it had stayed in port, and where it now headed, what it carried. The Sunday newspaper keeps a public record of such data, but it’s been a month of Sundays since I read a Sunday paper.

But the ship was real as long as I looked at it.

I was driving, though, and could only afford intermittent glances. I was driving fast, windows down, music loud, hair flying.

I know it was there. But then, I glanced again, and it was not. Simply slipped out of my vision, out of my reality.

It reminded me of the man I used to see come home on what I calculated must be his lunch hour, as I ran the last hill on my runs. His house was one of my reality checks – I used it to remind myself of my goal, since it was at the peak of the knoll, the hardest and steepest hill of the three I conquer on my usual 2.5 run. Once upon a time in the season of jasmine, I marveled at the tall southern pines which graced his front yard, with something that looked like clematis climbing up the trunks of each tree. They were so fragrant, I came to look forward to springtime runs, just to get to that last, steep incline. Each labored inhalation was rewarded. His front porch was typically Southern, a wraparound with ample rocking chairs and detail in the woodwork, beckoning one to stop for a glass of sweet tea (slice of lemon) in the fragrance of the climbing flowers. The trees, and the clinging flowers, disappeared up into the sky-blue like some Jack-in-the-Beanstalk fairy tale.

How I would have loved to stop!

But my course would have been ruined had I done so – I was compelled to finish what I began, compulsively dedicated to completing my circuit, and his house was only one stop on my way to my destination. How sad…and it always seemed…no, seems (I still go by) so inviting.

Through the spring and part of the summer, I saw him come home. He would be parked in the side driveway, sometimes standing on the porch, sometimes inside, sometimes conversing with his landscapers. Sometimes just standing there, yakking on his phone, or pausing to watch me and wave.

And I always kept going.

Although we saw each other nearly daily, he was a stranger, and I to him. He was at the end of my run, at the top of the steepest hill, and I could not, would not stop, no, never. Never meant to be. He and his coveted possessions were well out of my league. I would not be interested in such.

I had to keep running, keep my pace, knowing the end was near and soon I would have rest. But in that rest I often thought of how nice it would have been to stop my run short and crash on that ample front porch and get acquainted with the wealthy neighbor. He didn’t know me, not really. And I didn’t know him. No, we were Worlds Apart, on two different courses, two different schedules, two different paths. He may have thought he knew me; he probably imagined he knew me, but he would have been wrong. Someone like that and those Things could not have understood or known joy from someone like me and my things.

And, like the ship that I’m not sure ever really existed, he also ceased to exist after my weeks of illness which prevented me from my daily runs. I have gingerly, carefully resumed and gone back, as I sit at the lapping water here, but he no longer comes home for lunch. And I have not seen a ship like it on the horizon since, either.

Both are gone; I am alone, and left wondering if they ever really existed, or if they were figments of my imagination, like so many other things.

I suppose I was a figment, too…not quite real, not quite tangible. Just sort of, out there. Interesting to imagine, but not really existent.

There is safety in not really being real, not able to be figured out, comprehended, perceived fully. Perhaps it is best if figments remain figments, visions as visions, dreams as dreams. That way, things of intrigue remain as we wish for them to be thought of, and we do not run the risk of disappointment, should the harshness of reality not live up to our dreams.

Our dreams…our delusions…our mirages serve us well, to provide the comfort of distracted vision, and of hope and curiosity, without the pain of what is, what must be, no matter how satisfying what must be, is.

Both the ship and the man were elusive and surreal as they passed before what I thought was my reality, bringing interest and reason to look while they lingered in the periphery of my reality, ever just so out of reach and causing me to question my sanity, yet serving a purpose by challenging myself to keep looking and to keep running all at the same time.

Oh, why O why, didn’t I stop long enough to verify the existence of the ship? and the man? Was I afraid they’d be real? Or that I would have to change to accommodate their reality? Was it better that they came and went from what I thought was my vision, that they remained a part of the Unsure?

How bittersweet, never to know for sure. I could never pursue either, and must stay on my circuit.

Damn, today’s run was totally to mentally detox. The news at high noon (delivered in the best room with the best catered food which I didn’t eat) was supposed to be good, which I couldn’t swallow, either. It was good to everyone but me. My crestfallenness did not go unnoticed, and I know they saw me tear out of the parking lot on my run after the meeting with more vigor than usual Upon my return, I was swamped with Higher Visitors and calls from all angles, feeling me out, no one daring to ask. The Secret is not theirs to uncover, they knew. And I was helpless, speechless, unable to explain. Only someone like me could be living such a dual life in so many dimensions.

But the run was hard and fast, and the man wasn’t there…again. I guess I missed too many days, so it was…just…a run. And I returned to face reality, my dreams and thoughts and feelings sequestered to the depths of my inner being, where they are better kept behind the game face.

But nothing can erase the ship on the horizon. I know it was there. I know it seemed like it wasn’t at one point, but I can still see it, I can still picture it crossing my path when I had time to pause my gaze. It was big and bright and happy, and added perspective to the horizon. The fact idea that it was there gave enough impetus to relish the rest of the surroundings, even after it disappeared.

Even if it wasn’t real, it was…just for a moment…it really was. And if I willed it to be so for the sake of my sanity, is there anything wrong with that?

The fumes of belief fuel faith.

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She was tired, nearing the finish, but still a ways away…pacing herself and thoroughly exhausted. The third hill had been a bitch, to say the least, after nearly 6 weeks straight of being sick. Recovering from surgery last spring after coming within minutes of losing her life,  had been much easier than resuming her old circuit lunchtime run. She wasn’t prepared for the endurance it would require, the perseverance, the determination to finish.

And then, afterwards, the grief of the loss of being finished. Phoo, having to return to reality.

She impatiently forwarded through the songs on her iPod to get just the right song to get to the sprinted finish, even though she didn’t know which song might suit her at the moment. All she wanted was motivation, hope,  and damn it, a little bit of fun to ease the pain. Her muscles were aching, lungs searing, and she was oblivious to the traffic as she darted across the busy road, staying focused on her goal to finish – sprinklers, ankle-twisters and common obstacles invisible.

Then she saw him. She had avoided this for months…for years…but there was no avoiding him now. He came up the hill, iPod strapped firmly to his well-developed bicep, keeping a pace that was intimidating at best. She couldn’t hide; he saw her and waved. She had to move toward him and get through the traffic and respond to his paused jogging on the other side of the busy road. Now she was unable to avoid giving the wrong impression, but wasn’t supposed to… it wouldn’t look right. She had fought this for so long. But now she had no choice. He beckoned and was waiting for her. No one else was watching, and there was nothing but more running to do. Innocent enough, she justified. Her passion for running spontaneously combined with divine and unforeseen opportunity.

She made it across the road and they resumed a good pace, running together with him in harmony, exchanging both smalltalk and insightful dialogue. She was reluctant to tell him she did not like to talk while she ran, preferred to dream inside her music and pace… part of the world, but not really part of it. But here she was, happy to be there anyway, because she loved the freedom of running. She wasn’t prepared for running with him, though. She thought she was, but once she really was, it was different. She felt different. It was exciting and wrong.

Yet she felt like she was a real runner, like someone unencumbered with disabilities and schedules and hangups in life. Without his even encouraging her, she felt like she could run the real race – not just this daily self-imposed jaunt – with competence, with speed, and without abandon. She was never one to talk on runs, but this time she talked, and was able to keep up a conversation. He was impressed with her, having seen her leave to go running 30 minutes earlier, and knowing that she had not stopped, that she had run alone and was intoxicated with endorphins…and she joined him anyway, running a route she had already completed by herself, but was gracious and eager to do again, partly because she wanted to for the hell of it, and partly because it communicated something to him about her. She wasn’t sure quite what – didn’t have the energy or wherewithal after the first half hour to second-guess what it meant to him. She just knew it was the right thing to do at the moment.

She became worried, though, during their run…what began as a casual, friendly pursuit, training for a marathon relay this winter, somehow turned into a competitive thing, with him envisioning all the benefits of coming out ahead at all costs, and her grieving all the people and things it would leave behind in the process. He admitted he was born with a competitive spirit – trained in his youth to go far and go long, and he could not appreciate (other than peripherally, from having polite little encounters) the people and things he would leave behind in his wake of pursuit, such as those who only wanted a taste of what he could do, or those who looked up to him and trusted him because he always said and did the right things. But somehow he always got ahead, and they always got left behind. Or those who could only dream of being like him, or being near him in his inner circle, because being around him brought them comfort and security. Funny thing was, he never really noticed it, he was so focused on competing with himself. But she listened without judging. And valued him for his sake.

But somehow, he remained an Untouchable, always being the best, always being the fastest, always being the guy nobody could catch up to. He never quite understood the plight of the Underlings. Although he said he did, he never really did. And he remained out of touch, but never really knowing it.

After we finished running the loop together, he noticed I was becoming increasingly silent. He lovingly checked on me, inquiring as to my silence and verbally acknowledging the change in my breathing and pace. I forgot my inhaler last night, I admitted. I could at once see the suppositions form in his head: how can that happen, is she negligent, is she damaged, is she less-than, why would anyone not ensure that they were in tip-top perfection at any given moment. I couldn’t answer, my breath escaped me, my lungs burned, but I knew I had to finish with him and get to the gate at the top of the hill. He was counting on me to be with him. As we continued up the hill, I feebly gasped that I was conserving my oxygen. He had heard enough times about my stories of overcoming asthma to finish a marathon, seen me enough times darting out the door with a big smile and my iPod blaring as my legs couldn’t contain the urge to start running even before the door shut behind me, and rolling in from of the parking lot, tank top saturated from beneath my breasts to my tummy, face red as the sun setting on the bay, music still blaring and my rock ‘n roll hair needing brushing, wild and free because my pony tail holder pounded itself out of my hair by the rhythm of my hard pace over time, oblivious to my transition from running reverie to reality.

He saw me all those times, but I didn’t really see him. I mean, I know I saw him, but I knew he was in another world, and I in another.

And yesterday I saw him. And I had to join him. And I wanted to. And because of that, I ran that extra mile, literally. I don’t know what he thought about it, but I think I benefited (although the scale today defies me). But I don’t want to think about it, because I wasn’t supposed to do that because the premise was, what would others think if they saw us running together? But the funny thing was, nobody saw us. And we ran. And it was lovely. But I paid for it dearly. And it was worth every molecule of oxygen, I tell you.

Alas, in all his glory, he ran away. Shortly before we saw the end coming, he acknowledged it and told me he was going to slay the dragons on up the road, since he got out of the gate later than I had, he was going to go on up the hill and conquer great horizons up towards the next traffic light. He alluded to the weaker folk not being allowed to run the race with us, and suggested ones he deemed worthy. I was worthy, of course, he said…and I knew this by how impressed he was by my having run this extra mile with him after he knew I’d already run three just before…,but they somehow I was not worthy. I knew he was right…the ones I had hoped to bring into the race to instill a sense of “you can, too!” were, by his competitive spirit, disqualified before they were allowed to register for the race. How would I tell my friends that others had been chosen? Would they be relieved and not look back? Would they feel more disheartened and separated from  Those Who Can?

Once upon a time, I had not been able to run three. I had not been able to run one-half. I had not been able to run two mailboxes away from my own house.

This saddened me.

He was so right, though, he couldn’t see any other right.

But for me to join the race, it took a marathon-runner to come along side me and slow down long enough to encourage me that I could do the same…and she stayed with me until I did. She didn’t run off to New York and do the NYC Marathon, like she planned, so she could improve her time for the Boston Marathon. No, she stayed in this Podunk town and reveled in encouraging me, marveling at how someone with asthma could really do what she knew I could do all along. She was also my disabled son’s occupational therapist, ironically. The year after the marathon, I wrote a nomination that won her an award for her accomplishments, and we had a blast going to the beach resort where she accepted the award. She didn’t win it for excelling in her athletic pursuits, or for helping my child with his disabilities.

She won it for believing in the unbelievable.

Back on the circuit, I suggested other races he might run to get that 13.1 sticker he covets to slap on the back of his wonderful SUV that the rest of us can’t afford. I encouraged him that if I can run a marathon with my asthma in honor of my disabled child, surely he, in his history of cross-country glory, can, too. He could aim higher than he currently is. He chided me for not gloating and putting the 26.2 sticker on every vehicle I own. He patronized me and maintained his perfectionistic, all-or-nothing thinking, “if I can’t do it in the time I deem appropriate, then it doesn’t matter and it’s not as meaningful.” He had the audacity to dictate that those we had previously committed to helping to train in the race, that they were likely too weak or unworthy, and would inhibit our race outcome.

He had the fever of success and pride. There was little I could say to him, or do for him, but wait. And accept. And love anyway.

Dang it, it all started as a goodwill, good fellowship, mutual encouragement thing for the race this winter. How did it come to this?!

How many races do we run that we deem our worst or our least, when they are victories for others? How many ways do we deceive ourselves into measuring our achievements in a way that somehow equate to how God measures us?

Apples and oranges.

Perhaps we need to look at our defeats and our shortcomings to grasp how God is measuring us.

Kneeling in front of the candles at the altar railing this Sunday, continuing to re-accustom myself to the verbal and physical obligations during communion, I thought of my eighteen years as an evangelical Christian, now coming home to my church of origin this summer.

God didn’t change, I did. He was always there, no matter where I went, no matter what I did, no matter what I believed, no matter how I practiced. Suddenly, it all made sense.

It was up to me to run the race – He provided the stamina, the endurance, the change of scenery, the inhaler when I needed it. He was there with me at every corner, at every refreshment station, at every mile marker, at every finish chute. He is there adjusting my time when I stop to assist a fellow racer who is injured, or to slow down and walk with one who clearly needs some encouragement to finish. He is providing the last-blast music to crank up for that final sprint toward the finish. He will be the One tearing the strip off my race number after I pass under the time clock, just before the Gatorade station with all the banana and orange slices. (Then come the masseuse tables, mmmm).

It’s up to me to give Him the victory for the race.

Now excuse me while I tend to my disabled child who is writhing in pain in his sleep, while my gifted child is demanding to know what I did with my Latin textbook from college. The race is not about us and our abilities, how fast we run or what circuit we train on…it is about acknowledging Jesus as Savior and serving Him, at the expense of our own notions of what that all means.

Let Him brush our rock ‘n roll hair.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

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