Monday, February 4, 2008

Experiencing “It” – John

This was a hectic but good week. I was able to run four out of the five days this week, and then topped it off with an 11.5 mile run on Saturday. I haven’t done a 25+ mile week since last fall. I was also able to get the kids away from the video games two times for one mile walks with Molly.

My friend Steve dropped his daughter off and his dog, a Golden Retriever. She has been playing with Molly since they were puppies, so when I left to run I did not get that, “you are not bringing me” look from her, as she was engrossed with her furry playmate in our yard.

I had an excellent run. After about six miles into the run I turned off the iPod and “It” happened. “It”, as I refer to it, is a pleasant mental state I experience occasionally on a long run. “It” is a spiritual experience that for me lies somewhere between the “Runner’s High” and a meditative state. My running goes on “autopilot” and I start to see images of experiences of the past, some positive and some negative. The positive serve an obvious purpose. The negative ones help me to remember the past, what I have overcome and what I have gotten through in my life along with the roads traveled (literally and figuratively).

Initially, I started to remember a few pleasant images from my childhood. The scene then changed. I was running the New York City Marathon and at mile 21, I all of a sudden felt like I was struck by lighting. Each muscle in my body was in revolt. Each step was a bundle of tightness and pain. I believe I was experiencing dehydration due to the fact I was unable to consume enough liquids due to the gastric bypass surgery. This extreme pain caused me to recall what I consider my “first marathon”. I remembered my first walk after gastric bypass surgery. Although I was on enough pain medication to sedate a rhino, it hurt just to breathe. My 458-pound body hurt worse than I had ever experienced in my life. My 16-inch incision and my insides were sewn and stapled like a child’s art project. However, I was determined to get out of my chair and walk. Each footfall to the street sign was agonizing. I was out of breath within 10 feet. I then continued the 20 or so yards to the sign, feeling like I was descending into the circles of the underworld. I made it to the sign and touched it then headed back. There was no crowd, no water stops and no finish line medals. However, to me it was a truly challenging and memorable experience. This memory helped me summon the strength to the New York finish line in Central Park.

As this memory faded, another very powerful image came to me. It was my first Boston, the 108th. The temperature was recorded near record of 88 degrees. However, I had trained very hard and was a confident (although slow) and experienced marathoner at this point. I remember people half my size dropping from the heat. I never felt so strong running this distance. I remember the strength and power I felt as a cruised along. I remember passing Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and drawing strength from that first “marathon” experience. I continued on my way to Boylston Street for my marathon personal best. I remember shaking my fist in victory as I crossed the finish line and I was overcome with emotion.

After that point a variety of different images and reflections came and went along with the miles. Some were positive and some were not. Then, my mind just cleared. All thoughts melted away with the rhythm of the pavement. This went on for some time until, splash! My foot hit one of the many puddles from the melting snow and my concentration was broken.
I have not run this distance alone in months. It gave me the chance to reflect on both the experience of the day and my life. The notion that you must travel the roads you have been on to get to where you are came to mind. That thought then brought me to Confucius’ proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. After that, I said a silent prayer of thanks for where I have been, how fortunate I am and for the serenity this run has given me. I also asked for guidance in the roads ahead, both of life and asphalt that I will travel. I know I will need it. I clicked my iPod back on as I realized home was near.

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