I finished six marathons and my exercise habit began by joining the cross country team in high school in 1986. Ultimate had a lot of running in it. Practice led me to love running. I didn’t at first, when I struggled. I’ve had my share of running injuries.
Last year I started running barefoot, inspired by podcast guest Nir Eyal. Over the winter I tend to row inside on the rowing machine more since it’s cold outside. This spring I didn’t start running how I normally do. Why not? I got a plantar’s wart—that is, a wart on the sole of my foot. For some reason, I felt ashamed to mention it, which was counterproductive because when I told another runner, he told me he’s had them too. Maybe most runners have. He immediately suggested better ways to resolve it.
Partly I wanted to get over my shame, but more I wanted to share what prompted me at last to run. The wart is still there, though I’ve gotten better at handling the callus around it to where I can walk without pain or much disrupting my gait.
My inspiration to run at last
I’ve talked many times about podcast guest James Suzman‘s books about cultures that didn’t run on values of growth, extraction, externalizing costs, efficiency, comfort, and convenience, yet score higher on health, longevity, abundance, prosperity, equality, and stability.
He recommended a movie, The Great Dance, by the directors of My Octopus Teacher. The movie featured a San Bushman persistence hunting an animal, where a person takes advantage of being able to run farther, especially in heat, because we can sweat and dissipate heat. Big mammals that can only pant can run faster but run after them long enough and they overheat.
The movie featured a man chasing an animal. He ran for six hours before the animal, unable to do anything, stood there and the man killed it calmly with spears.
Seeing a guy run for six hours in the Kalahari Desert inspired me to run. Yeah, I knew my foot would hurt and, though my cardiorespiratory system would probably do fine from rowing and burpees, my muscles I hadn’t used in a long time would hurt, but I wouldn’t die. I considered trying to run a marathon, but didn’t want to push things too much my first time running in nine or ten months.
I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done. I allowed myself to run slowly. I’ve never set records, but generally like to explore my potential and like reaching exhaustion, which reveals myself. But I’m fifty years old and the past several times I ran for the first time in a year, I injured myself. So I allowed myself to shuffle along.
I wore shoes, though minimal, nearly moccasins.
And I ran nine miles—down to the river, up to 59th Street, up to Columbus Circle, and back. I felt aches and pains the whole time and wanted to give up, but paid attention to the pain level. I’ve run enough that even given the unexplored territory of being older than ever, I knew I’d face days of soreness but no lasting injury.
As usual, I plogged, reminding myself of the tragedy of our entitled, spoiled culture of waste, but also taking responsibility to improve it and training myself to lead us back to stewardship. Plogging meant doing bodyweight squats and deadlifts at random times, draining my quadriceps and playing tricks on my mind, developing discipline.
Though physically and emotionally exhausted, I also felt emotionally accomplished and satisfied and physically refreshed. Not injuring myself as I had my last few first runs of the year restored confidence.
The hardest part, as always, was my calisthenics sidcha afterward, in particular the burpees in the sticky, humid heat.
I feel wrecked, in a way I like, and feel accomplished. The run took about ninety minutes, which gave me ninety minutes of physical and emotional training.
Running when it’s hard, enduring when my mind tells me to stop, I find build discipline and character. The burpees afterward strip away the artifice I present to the world and put me in touch with myself at the core:
Will I do what I said I would?
Today I did.
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