I did an easy 3-mile recovery run today, and it reminded me why I’m doing this and why I love it. Just being out, taking it easy, moving my body, and feeling the sunshine was so beautiful. This run made me appreciate the days when it does feel easy. And I wouldn’t have that awareness of ease if it weren’t for the pain, boredom, and exhaustion of my long run yesterday. There really is a yin and a yang to marathon training: three easy days, three moderate days, and one really effing hard day per week. When I look it like that, it’s totally manageable.
I think about my two best runs ever.
One was along the “lake trails,” a favorite seven mile loop along Lake Norman that I took with Hannah Marie and Olivia one evening in early spring. We got to the turnaround right as the sun was setting over the water, kicked off our shoes, and waded in. It was March, I think, and the water was still frigid. We were all wearing jackets in shades of pink or purple, and stood facing the sunset, holding hands, and let it wash over us. We still joke that it’s the best picture that was never taken. By the time we got back to campus, we were so energized and running at a quick pace that we frolicked and cartwheeled across Chambers lawn to celebrate the joy of the run, and all the love in our friendship.
The other was after finals but before graduation, when Paul and I were hanging out one afternoon (I was procrastinating on packing) and decided to do the cross-country trails. As soon as we got into them, it started pouring rain. We were both soaked and elated, splashing through mud puddles, racing (he always won), playing tag, slipping and sliding. It was so wonderful to be silly and carefree; there’s something about being all wet that releases other inhibitions and allows childlike play.
Those two runs would not have felt nearly so glorious if I hadn’t slogged through long, hot, parched runs that made me feel that doing house chores would be a reprieve. This evening was the yin to yesterday’s yang. Coming up over the pedestrian bridge (“the dragon”), I had St. Margaret Mary’s bell tower in sight, and coming down the other side, the low sun blurred everything in my vision except for the flower beds in Memorial Park, which it sharpened and backlit.
I know I’m waxing poetic, but running is poetry. I remember once, when Christine Marshall asked me how Poetry Club was going (my beloved Kathleen, Linda, and Jeff) and I sheepishly admitted to her that we didn’t read so much poetry anymore, but talked about pressing issues on our minds instead. She reminded me that talking about poetry doesn’t necessarily mean talking about poems. I’ll never forget the distinction again. But I digress.
Yin and yang… I was questioning Nate about love the other night. I asked him whether he believed in soulmates (I don’t, but still love Before Sunrise and Before Sunset), and then I questioned how we identify when someone is a right person, even if the right person doesn’t exist, and his ultimate conclusion is that you find someone who’s the yin to your yang. They just fit. As he put it, they complete your innate brokenness with theirs. I like that way of putting it.
Besides the serious stuff, hell, I wouldn’t appreciate my Mint Soy Lattes (or punkin spice! swoon.) if I didn’t usually opt for black coffee. I wouldn’t appreciate reading in a hammock if it weren’t for hours studying in the library.
I think a lot about balance and talk about it with my friends constantly, and I’m coming to think that real balance is swinging back and forth between focusing full attention on work, to relationships, to play, to hobbies, to exercise, etc. Going with the flow. And it works, as long as you circle back to each of those things that matter most. Balance isn’t constantly staying on the mid-line, because the mid-line is mediocre; it’s doing everything halfway and nothing fully.
So I’m going to remember that next Saturday, when I run eighteen miles. I’ll give it my all, then when I get a recovery day and a full rest day, I’m going to recover and rest with a purpose. Live the yang to its fullest potential– the fullest expression of the moment, as we say in yoga– and then enjoy the yin because you’ve earned it.
What are your yins and yangs? How do you keep a balance? Do you believe in soulmates? Let’s discuss!