Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Identity Moment

I heard a radio show the other night, and the guy being interviewed kept referring to "epiphany moments." It started to get a little old, all of these epiphany moments he kept remembering. But then I realized that I had an epiphany moment this weekend ... though I think "identity moment" is a more appropriate term.

Saturday morning. We were in Wintersville, Ohio (near Wheeling), for a Hubster family reunion. The reunion wasn't until Sunday, so Hub wanted to spend Saturday visiting some old friends and running some errands that could only be done in Wintersville.

I had him drop me off at the Indian Creek High School track that morning. Told him to come back in an hour. And then I started running. The weather was cool; there was a nice breeze, and the sky was overcast but not in an it's-going-to-rain-any-second way. I'd forgotten my iPod at home, so I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to run without my music.

It was a silly thing to worry about. The sound of my feet hitting the track was very ... relaxing. Meditative. I focused on how the track's springiness felt below my feet, focused on my breathing, focused on ... running. Not on whatever 80s tune was blasting into my ears.

I ran at a slow pace, and I kept that pace for four and a half miles. Hubster showed up early and walked an additional half-mile "cooldown" with me. I felt so good. I wasn't out of breath. I think I could have run another mile or two at that pace.

So, here's the identify moment: I thought to myself, "I am a runner." Not unlike when I stood at the summit of Katahdin on Day 1 of my thru-hike and thought to myself, "I am a thru-hiker." Part of the "I am a runner" thoughts came because running felt so good. Part of it was that I was doing something I'd seen other runners do, something that I thought was crazy: taking an hour out of my "vacation" to run.

When I first started in early July, running was hard. I sweated buckets and my face turned purple, and covering a single mile was a struggle. Sometime in the last couple of weeks, my face quit turning purple. I don't really start sweating until after a mile and a half ... and that first mile is easy. The first three miles are easy. I ran five miles yesterday, including speed intervals, and I felt great afterwards. The very act of running--and not just the sense of accomplishment that followed it--felt great.

I think I've passed some invisible benchmark. A half-marathon (maybe this one) is in my sights now. I still have yet to run more than five miles at a time, but my body is getting into such shape that even five miles don't kill me.

Now, if my knee will just hold out, I'll be in good shape for a December half-marathon! I'm doing weight training to strengthen my quads and other leg muscles, so that should help.

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