I've started my irregular running practice again and, as always, it is hard. I stop for months at a time and then I run again, mostly out of necessity. I run when I have no other exercise options. I'm limited by time or geography or lack of appropriate facilities. At the beginning of every run I am excited. "I'm running. This is fun!" About 20 minutes in, whether I am in my own neighborhood or in Phoenix or San Diego or Chicago, something happens. It's a little bit like when the electricity goes out and the TV (the old fashioned kind) powers down. I lose momentum, and the joy of running is gone. My mind is on just getting home. I look at my watch. And then I force myself to not look at my watch. Suddenly the music on my iPod makes me mad. My runs pretty much always end with sheer relief that I don't have to do that again for a while.
I've never gotten beyond this point. Then the other day at The SweatBox I was talking to a student (a runner) lamenting my ongoing struggle with running,"It's so hard. I hate the hills. Blah blah blah." The student nodded through my whining, and then, when I stopped for a breath he said, "Bring some serenity to it." Duh. Just like I do in my yoga practice. I tell myself and my students everyday to be in the moment, to make space for the range of moods in their practice, to ride through the different sensations, physical and mental. But with running, it never occurred to me to do this.
The day after this sage advice, I went running and about 15 minutes in, at the base of the hill on my regular neighborhood route, I got that sinking feeling. "This isn't fun. I have to make it back up the hill. I hate Jimmy Cliff." In the middle of the swarm of negative thoughts swirling around my head flashed the words, "bring some serenity to it." And I did.
The run was still hard, but now I was inside of the experience instead of fighting to get out of it. I could smell that post-rain-wet-sidewalk smell I love. I turned the music up. I gave myself permission to walk up the steepest part of the hill. I didn't look at my watch once. I know running will still be a struggle, just like yoga and a thousand other things in my life. But I also know that, if I can remember to bring some serenity to my running, I will struggle just a little bit less.