Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"Why" we run (and kayak)...a personal account.

When two of my most faithful readers ask, on the same day, "Hey, what's up with not blogging  for a couple of weeks?", I know that it's time to make an effort. And for their gentle encouragement, I am thankful.

The fact is, I love to blog. I also love to paddle my sea kayak. I cherish opportunities to read books related to outdoor pursuits that inspire and connect the inner spirit to the world outside. Perhaps more than any other activity and avocation, however, I love to run. It is when I feel most alive and most in touch with the person I believe that I was created to be. Since discovering the immense joy of running without shoes, I have felt a liberation and freedom of movement that I could never have imagined - ever. And running has never been so much fun!

Although we always hope for once a week, there often seems to be too little time to launch the kayaks, despite the fact that our Island climate permits paddling twelve months of the year. (We are working on some strategies, however, to get on the water a little more often.) Most evenings, there is just a small "window" of opportunity to crack the "cover" of the current read before needing to fall asleep in preparation for the 0515 alarm.

(Ah yes, I must mention that Joan recently presented me with an early birthday present, a sweet, wafer-thin "e-reader" which means I am now able to carry 1500 complete books in my day pack! One thousand, five hundred books?! Hey, so how's that for efficient packing?).

So much of interest that calls out, and never enough time.

There is time, however, most days, to run. Or let me put it this way, we make time...because we simply must.

The above image is of a book I'm currently reading - ahh yes, on the new little e-reader, of course! It's a wonderful book by ultra marathoner and Professor Emeritus in the biology department at the University of Vermont, Bernd Heinrich. Heinrich blends biology, psychology, philosophy, and some fascinating autobiography. Clearly, as he points out, we human beings are gifted with the unique ability to run long distances. That point was also made by Christopher McDougall in his treasure, Born to Run - my fav book of all time! Running is, clearly, one of the most natural of human pursuits. That must surely be why it feels so good when you give it half a chance. It's in our genes, in a big way!

But all that being said, I must say that if asked why we run, I will always quote writer, Benjamin Hale Cheever. His words deeply resonate with our experience.
Running is my anchor.
It's not what I do,
but it's what makes everything else I do, okay.

We have those words posted our refrigerator door. They are a reminder of why it is important to set the alarm so early and why, even when the night is short, we must try to be obedient to its somewhat excessively "cheery" chime. So long as we run in the morning, everything else that happens during the day will be OK. Whatever happens will not overwhelm or subdue or ever break our spirit. In our vocation, as in all of the "helping professions", there are shared experiences that require strength and resiliency. There is never really an "end" to any given day and there is always a list of important things left undone. In our personal lives, with the daily complex care of elderly parents and balancing everything else, life can be exhausting. And, of course, there is insufficient time to nurture and adequately tend to friendships, for which we hope we are forgiven.

Somehow, however, if we begin each day before the sun rises, running together, unshod feet enjoying the changing texture of the ground, along the deserted roads in the darkness and through the early morning mist, we know everything will be OK. At the very least, everything will be manageable. The morning run is a moving meditation. It is a prayer that is launched from a happily beating heart and a re-energized mind. At the end of the day, no matter how busy or emotionally draining activities are, we will still feel the residual energy of the morning run. There is a residual glow", at what must truly be a cellular level, deep, deep inside...and it gives strength to the spirit.

There are, of course, many other activities that may embrace the day in a similar way. Yours may be similar to ours or, perhaps, very different. For whatever gives strength to your spirits and to your day, may we give thanks.


PS After posting, I added "and kayak" to the title. I remembered when we lived in Banff, Alberta, alternating the morning run up Tunnel Mountain Road with an early morning paddle on the Bow River. I would launch very close to where we lived and paddle upstream for about an hour. The paddle back was very quick - just an hour or so on the water but what a way to begin the day! Our kayaks, in those days, were single, fibreglass TR2s, made by Emile Maschek. An amazing guy who set a Canadian record in international competition in the late sixties. Yep, a paddle makes the day go pretty well, too.


  1. Hi Duncan:
    Thanks for that reminder, of how we anchor ourselves. It's not what I do, but it's what makes everything else I do o.k. Like my nephew said to me the other day hint, hint, wink, wink,it's not my birthday yet and thanks. Is that a hint that your Birthday is coming up, Nov. 17th? Am glad Joan gave you that book you can carry around and get a read at any time. Good to have you back.

  2. Great blog Duncan. Good to know that you have something in your life that connects you and gives you strength to do all that you do. I must confess though I am having difficulty picturing anything posted on your fridge! I shall assume it is framed and perfectly straight.
    Thanks for sharing. An inspiring read!

  3. Oh, I can see it posted on the fridge...and it won't even look messy! A run up to the Nordic Centre and back pretty much makes a day okay around here! Gen.

  4. Hi J, L, and Gen,

    As always, thanks for dropping by! As for the comments on having to have everything neat and tidy, well, OK, busted! Haha!

  5. Yep, I think Cheever got it right. Bf JJ.

  6. I hear you. I used to run long distances, and often. Then, a severed nerve to my leg ended all that, and I needed another way to find my center, to quiet myself. Paddling, meditation and the sweat lodge (I pour)have all come together in my life to keep me connected to my spiritual side. Thanks for the post.

  7. Hey Bf JJ, it's good to know how to guide a day the right way!

    Thanks for your comment, Silbs. It's clear that you too have found ways to achieve balance and to find the "quiet center".


  8. I currently own a fiberglass TR2 Made by Emile Maschek. Beautiful handmade craftsmanship.