Thoughts while running

It was dark & rainy when I woke up at 7–in fact, I thought it was 4 or 5 until I looked at the clock–and I sure didn’t feel like running. I dawdled over coffee and computer. (I made the decision last night to do NaNoWriMo–more on that later–so I was forum-surfing and ended up researching writing techniques and books at this very helpful site.) It cleared a little and by 9am I decided to go (I was planning 5 miles today and 5 miles tomorrow). I still haven’t found the heart rate watch (no progress on any of my black holes of clutter, alas), and I left the Forerunner behind because I don’t want to risk any moisture on it until I figure out a strategy to avoid shorting it out again. So I was planning on sticking to a 3/3 breath rhythm to be sure my heart rate was low enough. As I headed out the door, I thought about what a timesaver it would be to be able to write as I run. I have all kinds of thoughts while running that I want to remember, but writing them down takes so much time, as indicated by the length of this entry.

It was foggy and damp but on the warm side–not too hot for running, just right. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned the lovely smells of fall before–woodsmoke and rotting leaves added to the mix of grass, mud, pine needles, and manure, all more noticeable when it’s damp–but today there was also a less pleasant one, something that smelled like dog fesces. It must be a particular type of leaf, but I didn’t think to pay attention to what kinds of trees correlated with the smell.

I was thinking about how lucky I am with the variety on my 5-mile loop. There are farms, regular houses, and lake cottages; lawns, fields, and pastures; a pond and a lake; stands of honey locust, sumac, white pine, hemlock, and maple; a few old apple trees, willows, and other less-common trees; dogs and cows; one lovely garden; so much to look at! Most of my pleasure in running is enjoying my environment. I’m so glad not to live in a city. Thank you, Jonathan, thank you for being willing to live in the middle of nowhere. I love it here!

I saw a redtail hawk in a tree, all puffed up so it looked very big, and I flushed a grouse–I didn’t see it, but I sure heard it! There’s something about damp fall weather that makes vegetation look magical to me. The grass is so green in contrast with the fallen leaves and decaying vegetation, and the moisture everywhere feels nurturing and friendly, as though anything could grow. I don’t know if anyone else reacts that way, but it seems natural because dryness correlates with harshness of the environment & survival difficulties (deserts, extreme cold, droughts). Maybe somewhere in my subconcious the green fall grass evokes the magical little green things that make the peach tree grow in Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.

I thought about NaNoWriMo and whether writing is something I’m committed to long-term, willing to put as much effort into as the people whose advice I was reading this morning. I started ranking my favorite activities in my head:

  1. Reading
  2. Research
  3. Problem-solving/fixing things (covers everything from jigsaw puzzles to programming

and then I remembered “eating” and “movies/plays/TV” and wasn’t sure where to put them. The synergy between reading and eating (or watching and eating, to a lesser degree) is a problem for me. I enjoy the combination so much that it sometimes leads me to eat when/what I shouldn’t, and/or to read when/what I shouldn’t (eg, get caught up in comfort reading that I can’t put down instead of continuing a book that’s challenging). If I could break that link, never read when eating and never eat when reading, I would eat better. But would I be going against my “true nature”? It would certainly feel like I was missing out on one of the greatest joys of life. So probably the key is that boring old BALANCE again… not doing it all the time so it loses specialness. I want to become the best person I can be, but more specifically the best Hilary I can be, working with the strengths and weaknesses I have without losing the quirks and idiosyncracies, but rather strengthening them.

As usual, I had to go to 2/2 breathing on the hills, but past mile 3 it got harder to revert to 3/3 on the downhills and flats. Partly I got into a groove and my mind started wandering more, and partly as I warmed up I naturally tended to go faster. It didn’t come easily to keep myself to 3/3. I started thinking about the “push yourself to do the things that don’t come naturally or seem easy, so that eventually they will” principle. My brain/my rational self needs to be in charge, because if I lose focus and my subconscious takes over, it only knows how to do what’s familiar. It’s like when you space out while driving and your subconscious takes you on the most familiar route–which may not be where you intended to go! But on the other hand, it’s not good to be too much in the head without listening to the heart and body. That’s how people push themselves beyond where they should, into injury (physical and mental). The brain needs to be the leader, but the best leaders listen to what the followers are saying. You can’t lead effectively if no one wants to go along with you.

That started me thinking about how dogs need to know that their humans are the pack leaders; a dog that thinks it’s in charge is stressed and a pain to live and deal with, whereas a dog that knows its place in the pack is relaxed, happy, and better-behaved. And when I’m not consciously making a plan for what to do and how to lead my life, maybe I’m as restless and confused as that dog. But when I make unrealistic plans (“I’m going to catch up on all my email tonight!” “I’m going to get 4 hours of sleep so I can do more!”), when in my heart/body/guts I know it’s not workable, I fail. That’s like utopian schemes that overlook the irrational and monkey side of human nature.

I’m still filling out my 5-miler by doing a little spur onto Ryan Road to look at our neighbor’s garden. Today her boyfriend was out in the yard with their dog, looking at the pond they’ve been working on. I said hi & then stopped so we could talk a little bit. He told me about the pond leaking, about the fish in their lower pond that I should walk over to check out, I told him about the marathon, etc. It was really nice and I was happy to have stopped. There are a lot of neighbors I don’t know really well, and running has allowed me to make connections with some of them. I need to not let the combination of shyness and being caught up in the goal of running prevent me from stopping and chatting!

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