Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birthday reflections on running and other good things

Generally, I'm neither especially dismayed nor especially excited when another birthday rolls around - except, that is, when my new age ends with a "9". There's something about knowing I'll have a milestone birthday next year that makes me want to reflect on my life so far and my hopes for the future.

On the whole, I have to say things are looking up since my last big birthday. Sure, I'm older, greyer and a little more battle-scarred, but I'm also wiser, healthier and more appreciative of the people and things that give my life meaning - so it seems like a pretty good trade all in all.

I decided a few months ago to celebrate this birthday by travelling to Hamilton to run the Around the Bay 30km Road Race with a few running friends. I'm so glad I did. The weather, the company and the race itself were all fantastic. And, though I'll always be more a tortoise than a hare, I posted a time I could only have dreamt about a decade ago - if I'd ever dreamt about running a 30km race one day - which I most certainly did not!

I took up running shortly after my 40th birthday when, dismayed by the fact that I'd put on 20 pounds in a matter of months and suffering from painful back issues, I went with a friend to a Running Room "Learn to Run" clinic. Four marathons and eight half marathons later, I still can't believe I've become a runner - a slow runner, but still a runner. And I'll always be more grateful than I can say to my friend and to the instructors who got me through my first year on the road when - despite all the laughter and camaraderie - running mostly just felt like hard work.

Nearly nine years later, running (even on bad days) is a lot more fun. And it's given me so much - improved health, great new friends, and a sense of accomplishment - not to mention the opportunity to make a difference by raising funds for worthwhile causes and encouraging others to be more active.

If I have my way, I'll still be running 40 years from now. I understand the Boston Marathon qualifying time for women over 80 years old is a reasonable 5 hrs 25 mins. (Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Three More Sleeps!

Assuming all goes well, three days from now I'll be finishing my first Around the Bay 30km Road Race in Hamilton. The forecast looks good and I've done the training so there's no reason to think I won't finish "upright and smiling" - maybe even in a fairly decent time (for a woman of my age and occupation). 

Nevertheless, I'm beginning to get nervous. I always do before a big race, but I feel more nervous this time because I seem to be fighting a cold or flu - which is hardly surprising given that everyone around me is sick at the moment. (And just why is it that people insist on bringing their cold and flus to work with them anyway?! Harumph!)  At any rate, if vitamin C, Cold F/X and sheer determination are effective against viruses, I'm sure I'll stay well until after the race.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Confession time: Hello, my name is Janice and I'm too skinny

Okay, it's time to confess that I am in fact a little too thin these days. Not anorexic or bulimic thin but, at 5'5" and 106 pounds, underweight according to the BMI calculators I've consulted.

I'm confessing this because, although I've genuinely made an effort to put weight on in recent months (there's icecream in my freezer, for goodness sake), if I were being completely honest, I'd have to admit that I've been reluctant to try too hard. I guess maybe I'm scared that my weight will go too far the other way. In the past, I've weighed significantly more and I didn't like that any better - except that I briefly had something approximating cleavage for the first and only time in my life. In any case, I'm hoping that publicly admitting I have a problem will inspire me to do something about it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Running Lessons: Our complicated hearts

As I headed out for my long run this morning (a relaxed 12 km through Shubie Park), I was thinking that it felt like the whole world paused in fear and horror this week as workers struggled to respond to the damage at Japan's nuclear power plants. There was awe at the sheer power of nature too - and quiet reflection on the fragility of life.

You could see it on Facebook - in the way friends stopped posting about the more mundane aspects of their day-to-day lives, opting instead to post links to news stories about the disaster, inspirational quotations, and prayers for those affected.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chi Running, Part 2

One of my sisters came for supper this evening but I managed to squeeze in a quick 6 km run before she arrived, and I'm soooo glad I did.  The weather was balmy - so much so that I went running in shorts for the first time this season.  Admittedly, I wore a long sleeved shirt with them but still.... SHORTS!... in March!! It was glorious!!

The other awesome thing about my run tonight was that I spent considerable time practicing my chi running techniques. They don't feel at all natural yet but, nonetheless, I ran 6 km at an average pace that was 20-30 seconds faster than my usual pace for that distance - and I wasn't even breathing hard by the end.  It felt like I could run forever. Seriously, I'm beginning to think chi running is going to turn out to be a very very good thing - not only because it may let me run faster, but because it may let me run faster and feel better doing it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Giving thanks for courage

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. " - Ambrose Redmoon

     “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” - Lao Tsu

Today, I'm thankful for courage - in particular, the courage of the 50 workers who remain on-site at the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan struggling to prevent the worst from happening. I'm thankful too for whoever and whatever inspires and comforts them as they battle on.

I'm grateful for other kinds of courage as well - like the courage little Gregor Gillis is showing in his battle against leukemia. He's just two years old today but has already undergone more medical procedures than most of us will in our lifetimes.

How is it some of us don't have the courage to get out of bed in the morning, while others are capable of such heroics?  I'm not sure, but perhaps it's as simple as caring about someone or something enough to endure all the pain and fear.  In any case, I hope those brave workers will long be remembered for putting the safety of others ahead of their own. And I hope little Gregor is able to enjoy a full and happy life after all he and his family have been through.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chi Running, Part 1: Working with rather than against nature

I took a Chi Running workshop yesterday so, when I headed out for my long run this morning, I was determined to put some of what I'd learned into practice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A small world devastated

The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan today reminded me of two things:  First, that the world has, in some ways at least, become incredibly small as a result of technology. Second, that we puny beings who live on it are vitually powerless when Mother Nature decides to make some grand gesture like an 8.9 quake.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Paying tribute to old friends

It's been a sad day. News arrived early this morning that a former classmate had passed away. It had been decades since I'd seen him, but I remember him as a kind and generous man of great faith and enthusiasm for life, so I spent a good part of the day in tears thinking about him and his family. Then, late this afternoon, I received word that an old family friend has just been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and won't likely be with us much longer either. Needless to say, it was with a heavy heart that I trudged towards the ferry tonight planning to spend the evening going for short run, doing chores and wallowing in my sadness. But that's not how the evening unfolded.

Letting go of illusions

It's funny how hard it can be to let go of illusions. We cling to them - examining them from every conceivable angle, polishing them to high gloss - as if thinking about them long enough will magically make them true. 

Our reasons for clinging to illusions differ depending on the circumstances, of course. Sometimes, we use them to feel better about ourselves or to justify our behaviour. Other times, we rely on them to help us believe in fairy tales and happy endings when our rational minds know better.  Most often, it's because we're not sure we can handle whatever painful or ugly reality lies beyond them.

Wise men and women throughout the ages have counselled us to loosen our grip on illusions, to see ourselves and others for who we are, to accept what is, and to live our lives grateful for whatever gifts we're given. Wise advice, but so difficult to follow at times.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Thaw

Spring is my favourite season - the longer days, the freshness in the air, the promise of apple blossoms, the sheer newness of everything.  I can't help but feel more positive and hopeful this time of year.  And, in the spirit of the season, I'm spending lots of time considering how best to renew my energy and enthusiasm after what felt like a long, dark, cold winter.

Fortunately, I was recently introduced to a wonderful new blog by Leo Babauta entitled Zen Habits.  It offers suggestions and inspiration for those wanting to walk more lightly on the planet and approach life more peacefully and with a greater sense of purpose.

I particularly enjoyed this post: The Key to Dying Happy. But the blog contains lots of other great stuff as well - on making and breaking habits, simplifying your life, becoming a morning person (wouldn't that be nice?), forgiveness, running, inspiration, motivation, creativity and achieving what you want to achieve without goals.

Here's hoping all that good food for thought will bring a spring thaw of heart and spirit to go along with the one happening all around me in the natural world.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Five things I learned from my cat

(It's funny what you think of when you're out for a long, slow run.)

1. Pretty much any time is a good time for a nap.

2. Food is very very very very important!

3. A sense of adventure is best tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism - especially where children or other small animals are involved.

4. The best things in life (mice and birds, for example) often require intense focus, determination and patience.

5. Never miss an opportunity to show someone you love them - even if it means getting booted out of bed for your trouble.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Telling unwelcome truths

I grew up as the eldest of five children - a fact that's had a major impact on the way I approach life.

Like many first borns, I have a tendency to take life a little too seriously, to worry more than I should and to try to control things. In particular, I'm inclined to want to intervene when I see someone I care about making mistakes that are likely to have serious negative consequences for themselves or others.

The difficulty is that very often such interventions aren't appreciated by the intended beneficiaries of my wisdom and advice. Most people prefer to make their own mistakes and learn things the hard way it seems. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My bucket list

I've reached that point in my life where it seems like a good idea to make a bucket list - that is, a list of the things I'd like to do before I kick the bucket.  Given the longevity that runs through both sides of my family, I hope my bucket-kicking day is still decades away - but of course one never knows when one will be hit by a bus or carried out to sea by a rogue wave, so it's probably better to make the list and get busy crossing things off it as soon as possible.

In preparation for making my list, I've been doing some internet research. It seems like a lot of bucket lists are made up of things people think they should do - read the classics, see the wonders of the world, run an ultra-marathon or learn a new language.  In the end, there will likely be some of those things on my list (an ultra-marathon for sure!), but I'd like to put other things on the list as well - things that resonate with who I am at a more essential level.

So far, the only things I've come up with are these:
1) live somewhere where I wake up every morning to the sound of waves and sunshine streaming through my bedroom window;
2) spend time in a holy place doing a lot of meditation, yoga, running and community service; and
3) be there for someone who is dying in whatever way they need me to be there.

Hmm. It seems like a fairly odd list so far.  Clearly, putting a bucket list together is going to be more difficult than I thought.