Competition with ghosts and fights with the future

The breeze off the Charles River was cool but the sun was warm and inviting. And after 4.25 miles of running, the warm generated from movement was enough to keep the chill at bay. Runners of all kinds passed by, absorbed in their own worlds, ignoring my friendly hello smiles and signals as they retreated into their own personal spaces. That was fine with me. I was absorbed in my own world, too, one of exploration and enjoyment.

This was the absolute best long run. It was short by endurance long-run standards (10 miles) but my coach is a believer in respecting travel and just the day before Mark and I drove over seven hours from Buffalo to Boston. My goal was to get milage in, but what happened instead was a magical two days worth of running which makes me smile just thinking about it. For part of the 10-miler on Sunday I ran with Mark (who was shaking out before the marathon the next day) and his friends John and Dave. We ran around MIT where I made the boys run up a set of stairs, then departed ways. I continued on, making it up to the Harvard boat house before turning around. Those last six miles or so were completely pleasant, even though I had lost my entertainment.

On Monday morning, after seeing Mark and his friend Greg off to their Boston Marathon experience, it was another six-mile run, this time with John, Dave and friend Donna. John and I hung back at an easy pace, chatting, taking in the city on Marathon Monday, nothing that we would have run complete and be showered and fed before Mark and Greg even made it to the starting line.

I can’t place my finger on exactly why those runs were amazing. Perhaps it was the new surroundings. Perhaps it was running with a group of great people I don’t see all that often, chatting away about races and life and sharing the experience of trying not to get blown off the bridge that crossed the Charles River. I never checked my pace until after the run and both days I was spot on to what my easy pace should be. And it felt easy — as if I could run like that forever. That intangible is powerful yet remains elusive for me to define. If only I could find a way to access it all the time, how amazing would each moment of my life be?

On each run, I was consumed by the moment. My mind was tuned away from goals and numbers and outcomes. Heck, I didn’t even think about what I was going to do after the run, or what I wanted to eat. (And food is so often a focal point of my runaway mental state.) The perfect answers would come to me in the perfect time.

Often I talk about living authentically through athletics. What does that mean? For me, it’s about relaxing into who I am. It’s about tapping into those best parts of my self which sometimes get obscured by judging them against other people, places and experiences. It’s about letting go of competition with ghosts and anxious fights with the future. Athletic activity — whether it’s training or racing triathlons or taking a yoga class or trying a new adventure sport — centers me. It lets me see those ghosts and future fits for what they are, stories I tell myself, and gives me access to the confidence and wisdom to create new stories.

I access the best parts of who I am through athletic activity. Sometimes, I lose sight of that, getting caught up in “shoulds” and comparisons. I get distracted by ghosts and fits about the future. The inspiration from Marathon Monday, the lessons from the Boston experience and the joy from those amazing runs helped bring me back to center and remind me of who it is I want to be.

Full Boston spectator report tomorrow! Today is a day to return to work, catch up on email, do laundry and, most importantly, just be.

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