My running has been on cruise control lately. I’ll do a few miles at a time, with the occasional longer run of six to eight miles. Speed work? Hmmm. There was that 10k I ran right after returning from the West Coast, which felt like a body slam. Then there was that other 10k more recently, which got canceled due to lightning. Does dashing to my car count as an interval?
In other words, I’ve been running however I feel like, with no goal race or rigid training plan in mind. It’s actually been quite lovely.
So when my sister, on her most recent visit, suggested we go for a run along a route that I would describe as a dedicated hill workout, I heard an inner voice say, “Eeep!” Sure, living near the foothills of Albuquerque means that no run is completely flat, but the suggested route rolled steadily from start to finish. Was I ready for a spontaneous hill workout?
Since she was the guest, not to mention she’s my sister, I kept my mouth shut. Hills it would be!
As the three of us (her husband completed the trio) started out, the appropriateness of the hilly route began to sink in. Running in general, but especially running on hills, has a way of clarifying things. It helps us to figure out what matters and what doesn’t; what we want to hold on to as we run up those hills, and what we can drop as trifling, unnecessary ballast. In the couple of days before that run, I had been struggling with forgiveness. Someone close had committed a fairly minor transgression (Ha, so easy to say “fairly minor” in retrospect!). It caught me totally off guard, and I didn’t react very well. Kind of like…well…kind of like a surprise hill workout, when your body says, “Um, EXCUSE me??”
In both situations, we have choices. We can stop, wheel around, and call the whole thing off. We can just stand there shuffling back and forth. Or we can put one foot in front of the other, repeatedly, and get over it. In every sense of the phrase.
My emotions cooled off gradually and I regained my senses, with a lot of help from this blog post. To quote from that post, “Kindness is right. Forgiveness is right. Happiness is right.”
Running on those hills, family at my side, plunked the cherry right on top of the forgiveness lesson. My latest mental trick for getting up hills is to imagine long, invisible strings connecting my head, arms, and knees to the sky. The string is constantly tugging on those body parts, so it’s impossible (in my mind, when optimism is winning) not to pump up those hills and charge victoriously over them. With each hill I ran up that day, I thought to myself, “Focus on the strings. Focus on moving forward and up, and for Heaven’s sake let go of being upset over silly things, because no one wants to be in a crummy mood when they reach the top of a hill.”
Let go of trifling bits of ballast. It makes you feel lighter, faster, and happier – and when you’re running hills, that is gold.