You’d think, after completing several marathons, running comes easy to me. Well, once I get going, I do enjoy it. But getting started on any run is always tough. Particularly Mile 1. I am not talking about a 1 mile sprint. Just the first mile of a long or short run. Its a tough mile!
I have stretched; sipped water and I head out the door. Reset the stopwatch; push off and go.
In about a 100 meters, I am panting! My mouth is wide open and my chest is heaving. My breathing is very labored and you could hear my gasps 20 feet away. My legs feel all wrong and my arms are like clumsy appendages. I wonder, are my lungs ok? I really cannot go on for another hour like this.
My legs feel wobbly. No pain, just completely uncoordinated. Like a toddler taking her first steps. Nothing grossly wrong. My feet are not splayed wide like a duck’s. I have the right shoes on and laces are tight. Knees don’t hurt.
My hips reluctantly and erratically swinging forward; pushing my knees ahead – seemingly uncontrollably. Hamstrings fire and decide how far my knee goes. Muscles and tendons in my calf are grudgingly lifting my ankle and projecting the foot forward. My foot is still learning how to land. Unsure where to take the load – should my ankle flex and land on the heel, or on the flat, or on the ball of my foot. Terrain is still alien and the pace, who knows. As my hips swing forward, my opposite arm is swinging back and my hands and fingers seem unsure of what to do. They are itching to do something, just not sure what.
No pain, just that odd feeling inside: this is so damn uncoordinated! So grace-less!
I just relax my shoulders and let my arms hang loosely. My hands and fingers hang lifeless. I take small steps and let my hips, knees and feet relax. I move my body like a lifeless puppet’s. I take small breaths and distract my mind. Within a few minutes my body seems to get the hang of it.
And like the thousands of times I started a run, I know in a few minutes, I will be fine. My hips will quickly learn how to swing and my quadriceps will fire at the right time, moving my knee and projecting my feet forward – smartly. Instinctively my feet will know how to land, roll forward and push off at the toes. My arms will know how to swing in perfect synch with the hips. Elbows and fingers will figure out what makes them comfortable. My neck will relax and my chin will bob. Even my shoe laces will swing in rhythm.
My lungs will adjust to being out in the cool air. Soon, I won’t notice the sigh of each breath.
The body knows how to run. I just had to stop thinking and get out of the way.
Soon, the trail below my shoes will slip away
Fuzzily and effortlessly.
Soon, the bushes will whizz by – silently.
Twirls of clouds in the sky will hover lazily,
caressing creases in my mind
wiping the stress of the day.
And very soon,
my mind will wander away
to a place far far away.
The peace of running!
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