“Nature does not hurry,
I have always loved this quote, and lately more than ever before I find that it really applies to my running. Certainly, nobody who has seen me on any of my recent runs around town would think I was in a hurry to get anywhere. I am slow. Very steady, but slow. I know there are points during every single run I have where I could push myself harder, make my legs churn faster, my arms pump quicker, make it up that hill before the dude with the walker, but I don’t. I guess at this time of my life I prefer a steady, balanced pace as opposed to constant stops and starts, even if it does mean that it will no doubt take me longer to get to where I need to be.
I’m OK with that. I’m OK with being slow because I have realized that at the end of each and every run I go on, what needed to be accomplished has been accomplished. Even things I didn’t set out to do, or didn’t even know had to be done. At the end of every run, I find that the stresses I was not able to withdraw from have instead withdrawn from me. I find that I am physically stronger, and my senses are sharper. I am able to really listen, instead of just hear. Instead of wanting to close my eyes and make it all go away, I see nothing but beauty in this concrete jungle that at times seems more like an imprisonment than a living situation I chose to put myself in. And my voice is, without doubt, louder, clearer (though still lispy), and – foul language and all – totally my own. The other voice that takes all too much joy in reminding me of my insecurities, faults, illness, and past mistakes is silent, finally recognizing that there is a force within me that it just cannot stand up to.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I sometimes wish I were naturally faster – so much so that more than once I have worked out elaborate training plans designed to increase my speed, and I could probably quote from memory every workout described in almost every “RUN YOUR FASTEST 5K/10K/HALF/FULL MARATHON EVER!!” article. But then I hear someone mention the date and comment on how it will soon be getting cold, and I realize that I know this not because of the date on the calendar, but because of the two golden leaves that appeared overnight on the tree I run by every day. I know exactly how much progress they are making on the bike path they’re installing near our apartment - not because I saw the newspaper article or cruised by in a taxi, but because I run past there so often that the workers have actually waited for me during rainy weather to tell me that even though it wasn’t open yet, I could run on the finished part of the track in order to avoid the muddy conditions of the area surrounding it. I know, during those rare moments when the sky is visible through all the pollution, exactly where to look to see the first star of the evening, because at my speed you certainly don’t make it home before dark. If I were too focused on shaving seconds off my time, speeding ahead as fast as I could go, running would still have offered me these gifts, but I would not have noticed them.
Running in the slow lane will never get me Nike sponsorships and trophies or the ability to run alongside Kara Goucher and tell her personally how fucking cool I think she is (even if I did meet her, I could never keep up), but it has given me the gift of getting to know - and really like - myself again, and of learning to accept progress one slow step at a time.