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Old Things, Reconnecting, and the Simple, slow beauty of it All

February 25, 2011

Email???? What’s that??!!!

Its no secret that the society and World that we live in is so fast paced. In fact, this very statement is so cliche that I almost want to let out a big groan about it! However, its pertinant to this post.

In 1993 when I was a sophomore at Oswego State University, I remember taking CSC 101. My ongoing assignment over the course of two weeks was to send an “electronic message” to my professor. I had a complex set of directions, with which I was to go down to the computer lab and attempt to send this message to the professor. This took me about 3 tries, and each try lasted over an hour. I remember a strong feeling of struggling to remember what the point of all of this was.

After I had finally successfully sent the message, which was as simple as the word “hi” (or something like that), I still did not quite understand what I had done. I found out that this was a new way of communicating with people. When I found this out, I was incredulous…why wouldn’t I just go up to the person I was trying to speak to and say hello, or just call them on the phone??!!!

Of course, what I had sent was my first email. Unbelievable at the time. Now of course I’ve probably sent 40,000 (literally). Also, I recall my friend Steve once telling me about an office communication that he had had with one of his office mates. This said office mate mentioned to him that he should have ” just emailed the message” instead of getting up and walking over to him. This seemed unbelieveable again! What was going on here? What was happening to the connection between people?

Digital age with running:

It also has struck me recently how the digital age has come to affect our workouts as well, and more specifically our running. More and more I see people running with music. I’ve tried it a few times, and it just hasn’t worked very well. This is really ironic, considering that I’m a classically trained musician. I just have found that my running rhythm gets messed up if I listen to music from an external source like an iPod.

Some of my runners can’t believe that I can go off on a 40 or 50 mile run and not listen to music. When I heard this, I started to think more and more about what was going on? Why was this such a big deal? I began to delve more into what’s up with this notion.

Music and breathing:

One of the most common things that I hear from people who run with music is that they need it because the sound of their breathing really freaks them out. Upon hearing this, I became alarmed because being able to hear your breathing is one of the primary indicators to yourself as to your exertion level, in particular when running a VO2 max type run. It also helps them disconnect a bit from the experience.

While this is alarming to me, in a sense, I get it! There were several times when I would embark on a 6-8 hour run last year (in training for the Oil Creek 100), in which I would be running very slowly up the Westside Highway with my running partner on my back (my Manta 25…see gear review from last year), and I would see the George Washington Bridge looming FAR off in the distance. It was approaching (or I was approaching it…whichever way you want to look at it) at a very slow rate. This would drive me crazy sometimes!

Why is this? Because I am pretty much just as connected to the internet, cell phones, and the need for instant update information almost as much as the next modern person. You mean I won’t be able to check my email for 8 hours??!!! I can’t turn on the tv right now and figure out what is going on, or go do some frivolous spending? I’ve commented that it was good that it took me 28 hours and 8 minutes to run the Oil Creek 100, because I didn’t spend any  money….so I actually saved  a bunch of cash that day!

Old Things and Slowing down:

Its a plain fact that people want instant gratification today. I see it in people, and myself, when we can’t get what we want right away. Running is completely contrary for the most part, to this notion. It’s ancient, it’s simple, it’s primeval, and yes, most importantly, sometimes it takes a long time to do it.

I will now be racing my third Boston Marathon, but it took me 7 marathons to get there. During that time I would train diligently for 6 months, race a marathon that I was sure would get me qualified, only to fall short again and again. After each Marathon attempt, I would somewhat begrudgingly start training anew for the next one.

How frustrating! Or is it? If we take a look at the old things in this World that endure, you may notice a few things. For example, if one stands at the base of the Empire State building and looks up, they may notice that the base is huge…in fact it takes up almost an entire City block. It eventually tapers at the top at its spire. In addition, the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is entirely true and has a lot of meaning. Having been to Rome, I discovered that many of the ancient buildings were constructed 2000 – 3000 years ago. Yes, some of the tops are missing, but many of the foundations remain. Take the Coliseum as an example. The foundations of those structures are rock solid. They’re wide, constructed of hard material, and have stood the test of time.




And so it is often with running, our lives, and the relationships that we’ve built. If we look at those things that endure in our lives, we see that they’ve been built over long periods of time. Our real lasting friendships are our friends who we’ve known for years and years, not our Facebook friends. I had the good fortune to visit Los Angeles last month, and I found myself surrounded by a multitude of good, solid friendships. These were built over a span of 10 years, and are the result of a patient, trust-building process. Similarly, many solid careers are built over a lifetime of practice. And it is also with our running careers as well.

Upon further review, we may also see that these enduring things have a very low tolerance for disruption, “tuning out”, or distractions. In this way, tuning out is the enemy of deep connection. A successful running career cannot be built off of the basis of a quick fix, like many fads and trends out there try to get us to believe. Using technology that helps us learn our pace more is great! However, I’ve seen an ad that proclaims you can get the benefits of running by running in their specially designed shoes, that allow you to increase the benefits by “running less”. Apparently they mimic running in sand. Wow! Really???!!! Yikes! What about getting the aerobic benefits of running for a few hours? In the end, it is our bodies that dictate our current abilities.

It is in the act of running where our modern lives and our ancient yearnings do battle. If you allow yourself to deeply connect with yourself, you can feel the modern part of you kick and scream..”What about your appointments?” “You need to check your Blackeberry!” “What about your email?!!!” “You need to tweet how your feel right now in the middle of your 12 mile run…OMG!!!”

But give it time and practice on the run, and eventually these trivialties will fall away. The pace of running is so often so much slower than life, and this is a good thing…this is natural….this is ancient. In actuality this is who you are.

Building a foundation for success in running can actually be great practice for creating foundations for successful things in life. It may seem to be painstaking, but taking the time to build a solid foundation will allow you to have something to fall back on should setbacks occur, whatever those may be. Its just like a solid foundation with our relationships.Build them in a slow and steady manner and you can have a great things to fall back on should arguments, disagreements, or difficulties arise. It also provides an awesome platform for celebration and joy!

Done properly, this foundation is one that requires you to tune into your own rhythms and slow down.  As a result, you can tune into your life and body, and this pays huge rewards during the process, and in part can become the essence of your total being.

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