Grace, gratitude and ibuprofen

ibucloseMiddle-aged PRs are unusual for runners, and middle-aged PRs at longer distances are rare as hen’s teeth, an anomaly to which I can personally attest.

When it happened to me at a half-marathon yesterday, I stood beyond the finish line in slack-jawed shock, giddy, faintly queasy and stupidly happy in the way of oxygen-deprived runners everywhere who have just run faster than they ought to for longer than they should.

I had hoped to race at my long-run training pace, but allowed that at the full distance I might manage only 30 seconds per mile slower. Instead, I averaged more than 30 seconds per mile faster, the second half of the race slightly faster than the first.  It was as if some secret superhero part of me showed up at the start line and took over. (Chest out, hands on hips, cape flowing in the breeze:  “Step away, little lady. I’ll handle this.”)newlifecentersorg

And it was fun, for at least 12 of those 13.1 miles. Fun. Only the last mile was taxing, and especially the second half of that. That was when my mind said, “Now! Kick!” and my body just kept tumbling forward at the same pace I had held throughout the race, because by then, that was all it could do. It was an invisible kick, evident only to me.

The rest of the race, though? That was joy.

I could tell you this was the result of good old-fashioned training, because partly, it was. And I could tell you that it was the effect of 400 mg of pre-race ibuprofen, which kept at bay aging- and injury-related pain, because surely that helped.  And I could tell you that it was sheer grace, that the X factor always in play on race day fell for me yesterday in a big way. Because that is certainly true.

All of those factors, and others too, no doubt, in the pantheon of invisible forces that shape our experiences day to day, minute to minute. The atoms and the ether and the charges in the air, positive and negative. A million unknowable things.

I read a reflection from a favorite Buddhist writer over pre-race coffee yesterday, before I slipped into my running shorts and laced up my shoes. It describes psychologist and author Wayne Dyer’s awakening practice of rolling to the side of his bed, placing his feet on the floor, breathing deeply and whispering: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” For just being here,  for being alive.

I know.  It’s not always easy to be grateful, especially when our lives feel like a struggle.   And sometimes they do: the hardships that visit us feel insurmountable, the losses unbearable. Sometimes it feels as if those million unknowable things conspire against us to create a death by a thousand cuts.

And yet.  And yet. Sometimes it feels as if they align behind us, around us, beneath us.  Lifting us up. Joining our little lives with the big and buoyant life of this world.

We never know which it will be when we roll to the edge of our beds and place our feet on the floor. Maybe that first cup of coffee, rich and redolent in your furled fingers, will be the high point of your day.  Maybe after that, it will all go to hell:  You’ll step in the hairball,  be late to work, lose the love of your life. You’ll get sick, or discouraged. Maybe that, or worse.

Or, maybe this:

Some grace will come at you, straight and sure as an arrow, pluck you unexpectedly from your leaden life, and send you soaring.

unlaceshoes

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6 comments

  1. Well, alright alright alright, Cate! Picture dreamy Matthew McConaughey high-fiving you right now!

    So delighted to hear it was not only a PR, but a FUN run too. I know they don’t always go hand in hand, but it’s nirvana when they do.

    I try to say, “thank you” before I drift to sleep each night, inspired by Eckhart’s quote:
    “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” – Meister Eckhart

    I like the idea of greeting each day with gratitude also.

    Really, what a lovely blog you have. All my best for the new year, Christy

    Like

    1. Aw, thanks, Christy. I share your feelings about gratitude, and count your beautiful blog among the pleasures for which I am grateful. A wonderful new year to you, too, friend; I’ll be following you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan Lukwago · · Reply

    Congratulations Cate! Way to go on a super race … for you and all the factors that came together to make this a PR race – way to go. Yes, there is that word, Grace. It says it all: unmerited favor.

    Like

  3. I only recently discovered running was something that *could* be fun. Hitherto, I had thought I would only ever run if bears, zombies, or zombie-bears were chasing me. I am a gamer, writer, and all around computer geek. Running was for the better in shape, not for the likes of me. Also, just running with no obvious (and immediate gratification, let’s be honest here) benefit seemed odd to me.
    Enter Zombies, Run! It was a fun way for me to game the system and learn how to run for the fun of it. I ran because I had virtual reasons to do so.
    However, I was still in copious amounts of pain after each and every run.
    It’s because I’m heavy or am out of shape I thought to myself. And both of those are true – to a point.
    But, one afternoon whilst slogging away on the treadmill – avoiding zombie mobs, picking up necessary supplies – I realized I was hunched over.
    Hunched.Over. While running.
    It was a defensive posture. I expected to be mocked (while running on a treadmill, in my own home) for daring to run.
    It was an epiphany. I straightened up my torso and pulled my shoulders back from my neck. Instantly, I could breathe better. My stride naturally lengthened, my hips settled.
    I ran for an extra ten minutes* that afternoon. And it was so.much.easier.

    Grace sometimes strikes in subtle manner. But, it is and continues to be grace.

    – ten minutes may not sound like much, but it was an extra ten minutes that I went for the sheer joy of it.

    Like

  4. Love it! I too am a runner of long distance. Keep writing 😊

    Like

    1. Ah, thanks! Good to hear from a fellow runner. Keep going!

      Liked by 1 person

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