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Four miles wasn’t so bad. In fact, this run was easier for me than the last 5k in August. I don’t get it. Longer. Colder. In fact, it snowed last night and the roads were a bit icy. The wind was bitter. I suppose I was mentally in a better space. I’d prepared with running in the cold and I wasn’t worrying about time. I did not even carry my trusty egg timer (trying to wean myself) and I had no idea when I’d gone a mile; there were no mile markers on the road. I just ran, practiced being present—in my body—and kept an eye out for ice. I ran about three miles with a friend who likes to “chat” (her words) and I don’t mind. It keeps me distracted from negative thoughts, and it helps that she doesn’t expect me to answer her (breathing is challenge enough; you don’t smoke for 20 years without any repercussions). The sandy parts were a challenge, but I kept going (a little slower, maybe, but I didn’t stop) then at the end sped up to pass two women around my age who had been dogging me for most of the race. I’ve reached a new goal: 4 miles. It feels good! I don’t know my time, it hasn’t been posted yet, but I’m not worried. I ran a good race. Now I can kick back and eat my fill of turkey, low-fat pumpkin pie and stuffed eggplant. Yum. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow I’m running in a thanksgiving day race, a Turkey Trot. This one is four miles and I’ve only done 5Ks before (3.1 miles). I’m nervous about it because I’ve never gone four miles. I’m also nervous because it’s going to be cold. It’s kind of silly to be nervous, because I’ve been running in the mornings the last few weeks and I’ve survived. I ran yesterday morning in 29 degrees and was warm enough once I got going. I’ve prepared by buying nice warm gloves and socks. Four miles is just a little longer than one of my long runs. I know I can do it, but still, I’m afraid. I worry about hurting my knees, about irritating that hip thing, and then some irrational fear about not making it—never getting to the end. I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s real.  (What if I’m stuck there on the trail for days? Months? ) My goal is not to win (I’m not delusional) but just to run the whole thing. I’m actually okay with the fact that I might walk some. If I need to walk for a while that will be fine. I mentioned the run to my class yesterday and a few guys were teasing me about it: “Only four miles. What’s that, an 1/8 of a marathon?” It pricked my ego a little bit but I don’t care. Four miles is four miles. A few years ago just walking to the end of the block was a big deal for me. I won’t let them get to me and I’m making a deal with myself right now. I won’t compare myself to anyone else at the race tomorrow. I’m running to motivate myself, to challenge myself, to grow, to be healthy, to have fun. I’m running my own race. Wish me luck!

“Yoga is about the journey.” My yoga instructor said that the other day and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Life is also about the journey, the process. It’s not the destination but the journey—is the common saying, cliché, but accurate. I’m realizing that this idea works in many aspects of my life: my writing, my exercise program, my job hunt. It’s easy to forget and start trying to control every step of the way, worrying about the outcome.

I’ve had a writing breakthrough—I am moving, whether it’s right or wrong, I’m moving in some direction. I am writing. This is the journey. It may work into something. Many things in my life have come about this way. A few years ago, I wrote some community plays and this led to helping a middle school teacher with her class theatre projects. That community service led to teaching a summer youth program drama workshop, and the semester after that, I taught Theatre Appreciation at a community college. Based on that experience, I was asked to teach drama to High School students last summer and direct their play at the end of the term. I don’t have a degree in theatre or dramatic writing (although I do write fiction and have read a ton of plays), but I just started writing plays and performing and directing them (they were understandably amateurish but I got better each time and people think I have a knack for it).

Now, this won’t get me a faculty position  in a university theatre program—although, who knows, stranger things have happened. I’ve been paid to direct theatre now for three semesters without a degree in theatre. All because I just started doing what I loved. If you’d told me this would happen, I would not have believed you. To be completely honest, however, I have a hard time believing that if I follow my bliss with writing something just as great will happen. That doors will open. I’m trying right now to hang on to this. To remember that writing is a journey, not a destination, even though I want to reach a destination, I admit. I believe that destination is some talk show—David Letterman? Oprah? The Today Show? Me being interviewed about my book. That is the destination that I have in mind. The reality is that I will most likely never make it there. I may make it somewhere similar, or for another reason. I can’t think about that, it takes the joy out of creating for me. I need to create. So one day at a time, create. That is the journey. Perhaps I’m thinking about my job hunt/career change all wrong. It’s a journey as well. I’m not going to just land on some shore of employment and think Ahhh, I’ve made it. This is where I’ve been headed all along. Where I am now is part of my journey, not a mistake, and I don’t know where I will arrive next. It’s not about arriving though, that’s what I need to get into my awareness, it’s about being where I am. I saw a magnet on someone’s refrigerator recently that read: “I’d rather be here.” Here is all I have. I might as well make the most of it.

I only ran 22:16 today. It took a long time for my muscles to warm up. The temperature was lower than it has been all summer. It’s the middle of September, right on schedule. I actually meant to stop at 20:00—just a short run today, but I forgot. I hadn’t set my egg-timer (I carry an egg timer that fits nicely in my pocket with huge numbers. I’ll talk moer about this later). It was in my pocket, and I glanced at it, saw I had about three more minutes and I planned to run to the intersection and ran right through it without any thought of stopping. I just ran almost all the way home before I remembered I was going to stop back there. Sometimes, it’s easier to keep running than it is to stop. I noticed that when I was doing my “training (run three minutes, walk one minute, etc.), I got to about five or seven minutes and I didn’t want to stop for my minute walk, it was almost easier just to keep going. But, that wasn’t the point. I stuck to the plan, did it right and eventually got up to where I am now, able to run 35-40 minutes straight.

I could have gone longer today, but my calf was hurting (on the inside, left leg).  My right knee was complaining a bit too. Then my gut was talking to me. Too much coffee this morning, ate that yogurt too close to running—yeah, some days it’s like that—my body just won’t leave me alone. ‘What the hell?” it says as soon as I start out. “What are you doing? This is just wrong!” Okay, that was this morning and I don’t know why, because I did yoga yesterday. I should be flexible; my muscles should be stretched, warm. I ran the day before—35 minutes or so. Maybe I really didn’t stretch enough this morning. I just did a few cursory stretches, calves mostly, and then left—and it was cold. I may need to invest in some running pants.

While running I had a thought, it had to do with the journey—running being about the journey—because each day is a new day. You never reach the end and say, “well, I’ve run enough.” Even someone who runs marathons, who runs those crazy 60-mile things, can never be done. They stop running altogether and after a while, they’ll go back to flab, their muscles will atrophy, they’ll lose what they’ve built up. So yeah, you have to keep doing it. I ran a lot last week does not make me fit this week; I have to run a lot this week also to be fit. I’m not sure this is having the inspirational effect on me that I thought it would. It’s a little depressing…geez. But, here we go—here’s the upside—I keep doing it regularly, and it does build on the work I did before. I keep getting firmer, stronger, my stamina is greater each time. I wonder sometimes if I’m doing the right thing for my body now. Do I need to push more, have another goal? I don’t have a running goal right now. Just keep it up—that’s my current goal. Three times a week, at least. And I’ve added yoga and biking, I think I just want to see how the three work together for a while. Trust the process. (September 14, 2010)

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