Monday, November 08, 2010

I run II

PAP marathon training
I've been running a lot more miles now that Texas has cooled down so much and the race is on the calendar.  I don't usually allow weather to dictate my miles because in Haiti no cool down ever really occurs and high temps are never an excuse to skip it.  Truthfully, I don't really miss Haiti's running conditions, I only miss my Haiti running partner.

The path here in Texas is smooth; no rubble to dodge. The sights are mainly beautiful. The friendly exchanges are numerous. The air is clean. Running in Texas is without all the drama and unexpected bizarre mishaps. It could even be described as peaceful.

I have come to count on my run as my processing time and a large portion of my prayer time. Going for a run restores me and acts as a physical, emotional, and spiritual reset button in my life.  The gifts of running don't stop there. Running has been especially important this summer and fall because I've had so much to process.  While most of this break in the USA has been restorative, some things have been painful. I typically cry while I run, pray while I run, and listen to worship music while I run.

One of the better benefits of running has been its ability to knock the pride right out of me. I know there is nothing bad about that.  The reasons my ego gets crushed on a run are numerous...
  • I have hideous form.  
  • When I am tired my arms do the totally wrong thing. 
  • I am slow - I am only getting slower each year. 
  • I have flat feet and chronic trouble with keeping my hips in alignment. My body is totally uncooperative with distance running.
  • I could work with the best trainer on earth and never run a 4 hour marathon.
I love running, in spite of not being a natural. Being at the bottom of the talent pool (which is a nice way of saying untalented) allows (which is a nice way of saying forces) me to rely more upon mental/spiritual strength than physical strength.  I find that in a tangible way I can tackle a challenge of a certain difficult portion of a run or a difficult distance by relying on God.

Crazy?         No.  True.

As an aside, I will say that I recently learned that Simon & Garfunkel's, Scarborough Fair, is not the best motivator when trying to run a quickly paced mile or two.  Also, excessive sweat on the dial of an ipod makes it impossible to turn the song forward. After Scarborough Fair comes Sounds of Silence; which incidentally is also a very bad running song. If my husband was not such an odd specimen with his 1966 folk musical selections on my ipod, I'd probably be a much faster runner.

(You can ask Troy why Simon & Garfunkel are some of music's most important artists of all time and why I don't know anything about anything.) 

Because running has been such an important part of my life for more than six years now, the phone call I received on our trek from MN back to TX in August nearly made me wet my pants.  (Could have been the excitement, could have been the four cups of coffee and the 20 hour car ride.)  On the other end of the phone was a woman at Runner's World magazine informing me I'd been nominated and chosen to be in their December 2010 issue. I realize that 98% of the world has no idea that this magazine exists, making this post such an anti-climactic thing for you.  Suffice it to say it was quite the opposite for me. I can't really explain it ... It would be like an average to below average quilter getting their quilt in an issue of the always popular, 'Quilting Quarterly' magazine - or something much more exciting than that.

In September they interviewed and came and did this crazy photo shoot with lights and fancy equipment and all our kids were in some shots.  The whole experience was highly entertaining and slightly nerve-wrecking. Something about standing on the running path with my gear on while watching amazing athletes fly by at the speed of light (staring at us with curiosity) and the irony that my lard-butt would make the magazine while their speedy-butts never will  ... I would find that slightly annoying if I were them.

Sorry fast runners.  Haiti is in the news this year. 

Haiti - I Run - written in 2009

7:00 am-
I am off and running.

The sun is beginning to climb high into the sky. The streets are crowded. Each person seems to go about their business with purpose. Everywhere I look I see throngs of people trying to make a few gourdes. They sell bananas and eggs and deep fried plantains. They negotiate price, they trade, they make their way.

A pregnant woman who looks to be expecting her child today balances a basket full of mangoes on her head as she hurries toward a friend motioning for her to come quickly. The air is thick with the diesel from the overburdened roads. A haze of smoke from burning trash hangs in front of me. Dust kicks into the air with each passing car. We all breathe it in, we all exhale it out. I run.

The foot finds very little even ground on which to land as garbage and rocks are scattered all around. On the corner goats hang upside down by their legs off of sputtering tap-taps as people push in trying to pay the driver for their ride. Just above our heads an enormous United Nations helicopter whirls, deafeningly loud, as soldiers gaze down upon the chaos of the city. The sound is overwhelming, it seems to be bouncing off of the cement houses and amplifying as it does.

Loaded automatic weapons are cocked and ready as white truck after white truck of Brazilian men in fatigues roll by. A small child walks alone with a five gallon bucket of water on her head, dust whirls around her feet as she walks, it appears she herself has not had a drink in days. Giant piles of reeking trash jut out into the roadway. Workers in yellow t-shirts scoop it up. Their work won't soon be complete. Two men argue and begin to push while frightened little ones peek from behind their mother's skirt.

Outside of the giant Embassy people shove and elbow jockeying for position to tell their stories to the guards, trying to get their chance to see an employee and ask for a visa to visit another land. Cars and trucks strategically speed up and slow down fighting to park in a place where they can see the most. A woman exits weeping, her request to go see her ill father has been denied.

Another half mile down the road, trucks jammed full with people and animals honk impatiently waiting for a chance to turn - an accident blocks the road. No police arrive; the angry and injured must fend for themselves today. A silver streak appears overhead as an American Airlines flight screams toward landing. People don't stop what they're doing to look up in the sky. They keep selling, pushing, moving, surviving.

In the distance, as far as the eye can see, more and more and more of the same. I run.

In my right ear, I have my mp3 player on as loud as it will go. Derek Webb sings and reminds me This Too Shall Be Made Right. The combination of the music in my right ear and what I am taking in with my left ear and the dozens of situations I see around me cannot be easily reconciled or accepted. Does God see this too? A wave of something that feels like grief hits me. I am bombarded by a multitude of thoughts. I run.

I find myself feeling such admiration for the endurance of the people around me, for their ability to do so much with so little. I wonder how they do it. I find it unfair, even ugly. I feel angry. I feel weak. While I admire the strength I see, I somehow simultaneously feel pity. They probably don't want my pity. I wonder why life cannot be easier for them. Tears stream down my face and I run and run and run. And I try to make sense of it all.

The song in my right ear changes. I pick up the pace as I am nearing my home and when I pray a strange peace washes over me - I am listening to these lyrics:
Mercy, weep over me Let Your tears wash me clean - Majesty, be merciful with me ... mercy mercy mercy.

And I pray for mercy as I run.