When I first began running in minimalist shoes, I sprained my foot severely; so much so that both the doctor and I thought it was broken. Thankfully it wasn’t broken, but I had to wear a boot for six weeks and could not run during that time. After that experience, I was careful to build up my minimalist running abilities very slowly, not wanting to ever not be able to run again. I bring this up now for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, my husband reminded me of it and how I would just start randomly crying during that time. Secondly, the theme of not running goes along with this blog post that is rolling around in my head and must come out.
Normally… well… normally may not be the correct word. I have what? All of seven blog posts? Okay, up until this point, I have written about my running adventures. I was starting to get bored with that, as I often do with many things in life (I get bored easily). Then I was hit with a beast of a stomach virus and had to miss a group run I was extremely excited about (see Black Canyon, that’s where we were going). The experience made me start thinking about my blog and writing about the experience of not running. This post would be my anti-adventure.
My son was Typhoid Mary, bringing the sickness home and spreading it to my daughter who showed symptoms a couple of days later. The night before my run, I prepared as usual thinking everything was fine with me. By 2:30am, everything was so incredibly not fine. So I made it downstairs to call Matt at 4:30 in the morning and let him know that I couldn’t go on the adventure. Then, somehow, I made it back up the stairs and collapsed into bed. Or by the toilet. I don’t really remember which now, it’s a horrible blur.
I was devastated. I normally catch colds during the fall and winter months, but nothing like this winter. Back in February I caught a respiratory flu and spiked a fever of well over 102° for two days. That caused me to miss the Pemberton 50K race I’d been looking forward to that was one week later. Approximately two weeks later, I was finally starting to feel mostly normal again and back to my regular energy while running. Then I got food poisoning that hit me during a run after eating out. I didn’t know it was food poisoning at the time, I just thought my stomach was extremely pissed off at me. But then two weeks later, I ate at the same place, had the same meal, and got even more violently ill, this one also hitting me in the middle of a run. (I am never eating at that place again, in case you were wondering if I am just a glutton for punishment.) Then I catch the stomach flu and I don’t get to have my adventure with my friends. I need to stop acquiring every passing virus or bacterium! From now on, I am absolutely getting the flu shot. That should help me with at least that half of the microscopic world. Although, as I think about it, I don’t think I caught a single cold this season! Hurray for small victories? Or knock on wood because the season isn’t over yet?
So I spent the day prostrate in bed, unable to even sit up. I wanted to sleep, but my back was killing me so I only did so intermittently and not very well. During this time, my husband was an absolute rock star. We were both in the house, but I didn’t have the energy to yell for him, much less to get out of bed, so he brought me my phone. I simply had to call him and he brought me ginger ale and saltines as my stomach desired. He was up and down the stairs a lot that day, always with a smile on his face! Amazing. I probably would have been grouchy if the roles had been reversed. I’m afraid I’m not as generous as he is.
The Missed Adventure
Matt texted me when their run was done and that they’d all finished safely. He also filled me in on their adventures that day, the biggest of which (at least that which stands out to me) is that they saw a Gila monster. I have never seen one in the wild and I always want to see any new wildlife. I almost started crying when he told me that. And there is the catalyst for this post. I missed adventures and I wanted to cry. I was already all emotional from not getting to join in the day, but ready to cry? Wow. Time to evaluate this.
Evaluation (That’s code for thinking out loud, sort of, since this is a blog post and not a conversation.)
I’ve been thinking about the things we love, our passions. Running is my passion, but it’s more than that. I am frequently asked if I am going to run this road race or that road race, and the answer is a resounding “No.” I have run a couple of road races, all when I first began running. Then I discovered that there are trails near me: gorgeous, technical, interesting trails, that are constantly challenging, even when I’ve run them a million times, and I have never run a road race since. I hate roads. And no, hate is not too strong of a word here. I grew up in the woods- the trees, rocks, and streams were my playthings. I remember having a friend over to play once and while we were deep in the woods, she asked me if I knew how to get home and if I was scared. What?!?! What a silly question! Of course I knew where home was and of course I wasn’t scared. And besides, I was at home. Too many people overwhelm me; the wilds soothe me. Too much noise causes me to start crying; the wilds have the perfect sounds. Road races have hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. They are loud. There are few trees or wildlife. The road is hard underfoot, with no dirt to dust my ankles and show the beauty of the land I have just traversed. Being dusty and grimy at the end of run is part of the fun. Just like when I was little, the dirtier I am when I finish the day, the more fun I have had. See? Running alone is not the sole source of my joy. I can run on roads, and occasionally I do when that is all that is available to me, but that is not where I find my true joy.
If running in and of itself is not my joy, what is? My joy, my heart, is in running a wild trail. I believe God put us on earth to enjoy it, to enjoy his creation. I think it brings God joy when we take pleasure in what he has surrounded us with. My running in his creation is, to me, the ultimate expression of my pleasure in his creation. My body is his creation, and I marvel at the intricacies that cause my brain to know what my feet are feeling, what my eyes are seeing, what my nose is smelling, what my ears are hearing. As each muscle tenses and releases, it works together with my eyes and feet, ensuring accurate landings among a myriad of rocks, and no rolled ankles. With all of the information flowing into and out of my brain, it is amazing that all of these things happen and yet I don’t need to focus on any of them. I can simply enjoy each sensation as it comes. Straining my muscles, breath, and heart as I climb hills? Incredible. Inhaling the scent of growing things and dirt? Unbelievable. Seeing wildflowers and wildlife? Priceless. Give me dirt and rocks under my feet and life growing around me any day.
These thoughts of my running joy make me think of a question my husband once asked me. “What is your favorite color?” Not a particularly profound question, right? Well, my favorite color is red, scarlet red preferably. Then he asked me why that was. I’d never really thought about it, but the answer was immediately on my lips anyway, “Because it’s vibrantly, profoundly ALIVE.” I asked him why he wanted to know why. He said, “Because you can tell a lot about a person by why their favorite color is their favorite color.” And there you have it. Profound. Red is my favorite color because I love to be alive. I don’t want to spend my days in mediocrity. I want to be wildly alive for every single second I have on this earth. For me, I cannot do that in a city or on a road. I cannot do that surrounded by hundreds of people who don’t know or care about me. Sanitized surfaces and prepared experiences are empty to me. I need an adventure under my feet.
Just like that, I know why I wanted to cry when I heard about the Gila monster. As I lay in bed, too weak to sit up or help myself in any way (for the fourth time in the span of about a month and a half), I missed out on a sliver of dynamic life. I realize that my recent illnesses are nothing compared to those who have cancer or other debilitating diseases, and I’m not whining. I have simply discovered something about myself, about why I am the way I am. This discovery causes me to realize that other people have other passions, and even though their passions might be different from, or even the exact opposite of my own, that does not mean that they feel any differently about them than I do of mine. So, what is your passion? What makes you come alive? If you don’t know yet, I would encourage you to seek it. We have a finite amount of time on this earth and then we’re gone. Live the time you have.