Running Around The Block
Article by: Michael SelmanReproduced with permission of the author
I love to write just about as much as I love to run. That's why I do both. They are passions, and the passions both often burn brightly. But from time to time, the desire for one or the other diminishes, and on rare occasion, I seem to lack enthusiasm for both at the same time.
As I have written in the past, my writing and my running are cause and effect. Although I can run without writing, if my running stops, I suddenly find that it becomes increasingly harder to write. I have had challenges with this in the past. When I have been injured for long periods of time, and unable to run, you didn't hear from me on the same monthly basis that you have become accustomed to. That's because running is my canvas, and with no canvas, there is no place to put the colors.
Usually, the only times I don't run are when I am hurt, and when I do run, every step is meaningful. But I have been in kind of a funk lately, and my running has been a little less than joyful. I recovered from last month's injury, and had the ability to run again, but I just didn't feel motivated. I got back to 25 miles a week, but they were miles without feeling, and as a result, I had nothing to write about. But that changed today, as I ran around the block, during Atlanta's second "THE Ice Storm of 2000" in two weeks. It's amazing how quickly history sometimes repeats itself.
When I woke up this morning, I had no expectations of running at all. In fact, I was pretty sure it was going to be a cross-training day, due to the weather outside. The ice storm, which was pending last night, had arrived in the wee hours of the morning. When I woke up, the precipitation was hard to diagnose. It might have been rain. It might have been sleet. It might have been freezing rain. But whatever it was, I knew I didn't want to run in it. The temperature was 30 degrees. It was windy. It was gloomy. The grass and the sidewalks were icy, but the blacktopped streets looked more wet than anything. I figured I could write first, and see if the skies cleared, and the air warmed later in the day.
But I couldn't write. I had nothing to write about. I got restless, and at about 10 o'clock I turned on the weather channel. It showed that Atlanta was going to have a short break in the mess that was falling, and then things were just going to get worse. The bad weather on the way was now just crossing the border from Alabama to Georgia. That could be an hour away. It could be two hours away. It all depended in its speed, but weather is so variable anyway. You never really know until you go outside and see for yourself. So I decided that's just what I was going to do.
By 10:30, I was out the door, complete with Gor-Tex, wool hat, and gloves. I have always loved cold weather running, but 30 degrees and rain is not fun, no matter what. I knew as I walked down to the street that it might be icy, and if it was, I was going to do an about face, and go back inside. But the footing was true. The street was wet, but not frozen, which was in stark contract to just about everything else around it. So I started to run, wondering to myself how long it was going to be before the weather turned really ugly. I got my answer about an hour later. Once I started out the door, I committed myself to 11 miles, and a runner does not go back on their commitments to themselves. When the heavy stuff hit, I couldn't tell quite what was falling. When the wind was in my face, I knew it was freezing rain, as I could feel the sting, and the coldness on my face, which was my only exposed area. At times, I could see stuff bouncing off the ground as it hit, and the icicles hanging from the mailboxes were ever increasing in length. Although it was hard to define quite what the weather was doing, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was running around the block. Both my writer's block, and my runner's block were melting away in the freezing rain.
By 8 miles, I had really had enough, already. The frozen rain was getting harder, and my gloves were holding the water. As a result, I could hardly feel my fingertips any more. But I had promised myself 11 miles.
I meant what I said and I said what I Meant. A runner's committed 100%
Speaking of committed runners, I didn't see another one the whole time I was out there. Could I be different, even for a runner? Scary thought. The only other life forms I saw at all were several smokers, all doing the same thing. No doubt, there were house rules in effect for these people that no smoking was allowed inside their houses. So they stood by open garage doors, smoking their cigarettes, watching me, and shaking their heads as I went by, as if I was doing something that was bad for me. Go Figure.
The last three miles were a killer, but they served their purpose. The last three miles were special, because the purpose of the run had been accomplished in the first 8. I knew by mile 8 that I had my passion for running back, as well as my passion for writing. If I had waited until tomorrow's fair skies and warmer temperatures to run again, I am sure I would still be running uninspired, and I would have nothing to write about when I was done.
So, I finished my 11 miles, and felt a thrill I haven't felt in a long time. Although I never realized it during my run, when I looked at my jacket as I walked back to the house, I saw that it was coated with a glaze of ice. I think I kind of understood those garage smoker's points of view as they shook their heads as I passed. If I wasn't me, I suppose I would think I was crazy too. It must look a lot different from the inside looking out, in this kind of weather.
What I realized early into today's run is that if you are running uninspired, or if you have stopped running due to lack of motivation, you probably need to do something more than what you have always done in the past. You are suffering from "Runner's Block" and it requires doing something different than you have ever done in the past. For me, all it took was a "run around the block" in the midst of an ice storm.
Michael Selman Roads Scholar Atlanta Georgia USAMichael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.