My youngest daughter is training for the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon this coming June. (It's a really cool race. Every two miles there is another band playing. I am sure one of them will play the Rocky theme song - probably towards the end.) And so she had been updating me, daily, on her runs. The length of them. The speed. The power that comes with pushing her body and having it respond with grace and strength. And that lovely feeling of well-being - well more really, of lightness and happiness and a bit of headiness - that comes when those lovely natural chemicals get released in her body and nurture her soul. And so when she texted me this morning, after a fourteen mile run that marks where she is in her training schedule approximately two months out from race day, she thanked me for my inspiration - Please give yourself credit about how much running has influenced me because you and daddy are runners - after she wrote Endorphins are the new weed.
She is right. Not that it is new, per se. That release of natural chemicals that comes when we push our bodies this way has been recognized way before the feel the burn and just do it mantras became everyday slang. Physiologically our bodies, way back during our hunter/gatherer days, created this lovely high so that as we ran after our prey we felt good, too. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about it: The Elusive 'Runner's High' Has Prehistoric Roots, and clarified that the chemical release is not actually endorphins but endocannobinoids, so named for their resemblance to the active ingredient in cannabis.
Ah..now this is making sense...
I've always been a runner. And even though I no longer run, I think of myself this way, still. As though I am, still, in my marathon days when I would take off from my home, only to circle back around an hour later - which was only a third of the way into my run - to drop off a too warm shirt or that extra pair of leggings. That is if I was not lucky enough to run into our local mailman who would happily take my layers from me and dropped them off on my porch while he made his rounds through our neighborhood.
I would run and lose myself in my run. Running without music or a companion to pass the time was my run of choice. Just me and my thoughts. Sometimes quite involved self reflection, other times a repeat of the alphabet or a counting to twenty over and over again. I would often look up and not quite know where I was. Or even where I'd been. Running without seeing. Just being in my movement. It was a lovely thing. And I miss it. So watching my daughter take up running, while it feels like a passing of the torch, also inspires me to perhaps run again.
My body hates it.
This long running. It's a constant pounding that is horrible for my back. A not quite aligned, fractured long ago spine that holds remnants of pain and injury which sometimes makes even walking a difficult thing - even after only five or ten minutes on a trail with my dog. And so to run again is not really the smartest thing for me. I've been told this many times.
But still I think I'm going to do this.
I will start small. And slow. I'll jog the long paths through the orange grove below my house. And walk the turns in much the same way I used to do interval training and sprint the straight aways on the track - walking the curves in-between each sprint to find my breath and ready myself for the next exertion. I will do this, to start. Working my way up to longer parts running and shorter parts walking. The soft gravel and dirt of the grove will cushion the pounding that it not good for me. My dog will run next to me and learn, hopefully quickly, that this is not the game I taught her when she was small - running back and forth on the lawn so that she could chase me and jump against my legs in play.
And as time goes on I will take to the road, Nava now on leash, and wander the streets near where I live. Past other orange groves and old strong trees. My speed will be faster now, less the jogging in the grove that jars my spine, and more an even flow that will settle into my legs and propel me in a way that elevates the movement from a pounding down to a pushing forward.
I will do this. Start this soon. And it will be hard. And it will be frustrating because my muscle memory will want to run like I used to not like I am. And my mind will again explore myself. Or not.
But it will be good.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover.