I Can Not Do Anything

The alarm went off at 5:45, but I’d been awake for most of an hour already, nervous about the run in front of me. M and I had agreed to run the local test piece as a way to jump start our assault on a 200 mile August.

In theory, this was a good idea. It’s a 12.5 mile loop, mostly on trail. It’s been hot and humid lately, but better always in the woods. My nerves were mostly the result of recent hydration challenges, a heat stroke a couple weeks back, and some serious pain cave time trying to pile miles in the heat over the weekend. I’d hurt, and I was afraid to hurt more.

I dragged my ass out of bed, made some toast, drank some water, and laced up my shoes. There’s a rough moment there, when the logistics are all attended to, when you’re basically ready to go in all outward appearance, but the front door seems inordinately heavy and hard to open.

Walking to the meeting spot, I thought about how I would manage when things got hard. I promised myself I’d keep it in the box. For once I was at the spot before M, so I sat down and thought some more about where to run and where to walk, how fast to push. Fortunately, M arrived and helped me stop thinking but pressing the tiny button on her watch that says, ‘go.’

One way to approach the test piece is to walk the paved parts and run all the dirt, except that puts most of your walking at the beginning, and it also puts us on a slower pace than we can afford on a Wednesday.

So we ran.

In fact, we mostly ran. We ran all the paved parts that went downhill. We ran all the dirt, except for a few climbs at the end, where aggressive walking helped us keep our hearts in our chests for the final dash back to the spot. We ran above pace for what ends up being a technical, trail half-marathon, mid-week, before work.

And we improved our best time by a little over 20 minutes, which wasn’t really the point, but it does highlight how dumb my pre-run nerves were. In fact, are pre-run nerves ever really useful?

I know it doesn’t have to be like this, nervy, painful, unpleasant. It doesn’t have to scare me. I can shut this off at any point. I can not do what I’m doing. I can not do anything. I’ve been running for more than 30 years, but I’m continually shocked by how little I’ve learned.

What I think now is that a mind is a curious trap we set for ourselves every morning when we wake up. The ego somehow gets in front of the thinking brain and is difficult to negotiate with. It sets an agenda and dares us not to go along. As a result, I make a lot of stupid choices and repeat too many mistakes. I’m worrying about living up to standards I set for myself. It’s asinine.

If I can do anything (I probably can’t), it’s also true that I can not do anything I choose, and far from being a cop out, I think that gives me license to enjoy myself, no matter how ambitious I am.

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