Monday, November 12, 2007

Acknowledging the Herons

Spotting a heron on Papermill Pond is an unspoken conversation with both Nature and the running gods--it dials me in to the world and often helps psychologically create, or further, a good run. Photo by Robert Grieser, courtesy of CBMM.

I would consider bringing a heron along with me to Hagerstown on Saturday, if it was practical. My friends on Papermill Pond along both St. Michaels and Oxford Roads, scoping a heron often gives me a mental lift and kick-in-the-running-shorts during a long morning run. They've been good for running and for a two-way smile with Creation, a grinning glimpse possible only by putting the time in outside.

There are games, signals, and mental marks all along my frequent routes for runs. This past Friday, on an 8-mile out-and-back up Oxford Road, I passed geese pitching in; startled some whitetail deer across from Waverly Road, and (figuratively) tipped my hat to a heron stationed on the shoreline. It was one of those "why I run" moments, which frequently occur during early morning runs.

Yet, the head-shaking moment came passing the YMCA, both coming and going, with folks plodding along on the treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationery bikes, and stairmasters. I am sure there is something enjoyable about shooshing along to Headline News first thing in the morning, much the same way as a hamster supremely digs the wheel he runs on in his cage. The key difference I see between the two--the treadmiller and the hamster--is that the hamster is making the best of the surroundings he's dealt. The treadmiller chooses his/her wheel.

I don't mean to bust on the cardio-moles here. This is my own, leaning askew perspective--a mindset developed from running outside in a variety of temperatures, seasons, and times of day. I will hop on a stairmaster or treadmill in a pinch and enjoy the workout, but I would rather run in 20 degree weather outside for the adventure of it.

Did someone say adventure? The calendar says that the JFK 50-miler is this Saturday, November 17 with a 7 a.m. start. Training and health have been makeshift, as has been well-documented in past entries, but feel like they have been moving slowly in the right direction. I ran my 8-miler on Friday in 1:13:32, at a sustainable pace, for negative splits, with a good pace for the last 2 or so miles. That puts the pace at a hair over 9-minute miles without really dropping the hammer.

Conditioning, nutrition, equipment, weather on the tangible side; momentum, determination, Aries-like stubbornness on the intangible, will be telling factors for Saturday.

Funny, somehow I have already moved my running outlook to the other side of the race, appreciating runs of any distance; savoring the setting; running just to run, not as part of a training plan, but as a way of life, a way of being; and acknowledging the herons.

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