Not only do these people expect you to run, they have the gall to ask you to do it outside! No jogging under the frosty AC with TV screen in front of you attached to a gym treadmill… on concrete and dirt! No distractions! Just the birds, “real joggers,” and people walking their dogs to keep you from thinking, “It’s awfully warm out today,” or, “I think I’m going to pop a lung!” or “Has it been 30 minutes, yet?!?!?!”
I’ve sort of earned my fear for running. Four years ago, I injured my knee while attending a meditation retreat. I slipped in the kitchen on a wet spot during working meditation and my loosey-goosey knee went out of place as I hit floor. As the only pair of crutches at the monastery was already in use, my Dharma sisters and brothers offered their arms to support me as I hobbled across the grounds to meditations, talks, and meals. While the kindness I found there dissolved my embarrassment, I was very hesitant to enter into activities resulting in any impact on my knee. As a yoga instructor and practitioner, I talked my ego into modifying my practice and I learned new exercises to strengthen the muscles around my knee.
Fast-forward to June 2014: I found the Wild Body Challenge and, considering how sanity-preserving the ReWild Your Life Challenge proved to be, signing up was the most natural thing to do. I was excited to try any program requiring no gym but designed to whip me back into shape and keep me on my new daily 30-minutes-outside regimen…
…and then, I saw it.
Day Three: Running.
I begrudgingly laced up my neglected running shoes and made way for a paved trail near my neighborhood. The trail is the better use of an alley between the backyards of houses. It’s a clear, safe place to run, but, there’s a somewhat voyeuristic awkwardness about it. It’s just not east to get into a “running trance” with music blaring in this yard here and teenagers squealing over an image displayed on some kid’s iPhone over there. Instead of focusing on my breath and running on the ball of my foot, I kept wishing I was somewhere else, whining to myself about my sore shins, and fuming over visualizing the color of my breath to be purple, polka-dot, or chartreuse making not a bit of difference!
One day, I finally had time to venture out to the woods of the city park. It was the hottest day since the challenge began and, frankly, I was dreading the idea of dragging my timid legs through the humid summer air. I opened the door of my car and it felt as though my whole body, the whole vehicle, had been submerged into a vat of warm, thick mud. I hung my head for a moment, reminded myself I would feel amazing when I was finished, and I started to walk away into the woods. My warm-up walk led me past camping sites and a Boy Scout troupe meeting. As I entered the path to the wooded bike trail, I began my run.
As soon as my feet left the concrete and hit the dirt of the wooded bike trail, something changed. I was no longer running… no longer baking by the glow of a fiery sun or melting the soles of my shoes on black and gray asphalt.
I was flying.
My breathing found a steady rhythm, guiding each footfall. The cooler air beneath the trees practically lifted me from the ground. My lungs were not heaving against my ribcage; they seemed to float behind my bones buoyantly. If my shins were aching, I didn’t notice. What I did notice were the variations in the foliage and birdsongs. I heard the scattering of little creatures racing me to various tree markers. Trees are the best markers – something about their long-term stability and steadfastness with the earth offers you mental security when needing a nudge in the direction of “Just a little further before you walk! You can make it to that pretty tree with the eye-shaped leaves!” I found myself actually looking forward to running through the park again while I was still running!
Of course, here comes the next Wild Body Challenge and I have a freshly twisted ankle! Same side as my injured knee – I fell off my bottom porch step holding a bottle of cleaner!
This time, however, I know I can heal from my injury and run again.
See you out there – flying – soon.