Happy to Be

At a dinner party with friends recently I had an abrupt epiphany: everybody's different. This obvious insight was triggered by the enthusiastic comments of a bubbling-babbling young runner who had just set a new personal record in a major race. That evening she set a PR for dispensing advice on diet, training, and how hard work plus willpower could make anybody there as thin and as fast as her.

"But when you get injured?" I asked.

"That won't happen!" she responded.

I hope so. But meanwhile, it occurs to me that I've often been guilty myself of lecturing friends and acquaintances on "improving" their running (and lots of other pursuits, come to think of it). Mea culpa! In the future, I resolve to offer guidance only diffidently, sandwiched inside disclaimers and caveats and footnotes. I'm reminded of Arnold Bennett's advice to a too-self-critical young lady: "...if you are not one of the hard-striving, resolute, persevering, teeth-clenching, totally efficient, one-ideaed, ambitious species, you need not despair." Bennett goes on to counsel moderation, honest acceptance of one's limitations, and non-envy of others who have more. Everybody's different. Some things just won't work for some people.

Not long after my dinnertable wake-up call, coincidentally, Paulette pointed out an essay by John Schwartz, New York Times columnist. He writes, "I run. Sort of." and goes on to talk about how slow he is and how it's quite all right to be blissfully unambitious. "There seem to be a lot of people out there who want to tell me how to do this running thing right, and hope to profit by the telling. But I'm doing pretty well, apparently, without their advice."

A fine thought. As J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in Chapter 3 of The Lord of the Rings:

"And it is also said," answered Frodo: "Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes."

"Is it indeed?" laughed Gildor. "Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill. ..."

So please don't ask me how to run faster or better. The right answer is, "It depends." Best, I suspect, is to try to be more aware, non-judgmentally, of one's running, or whatever one is immersed in that moment ... and to shift from doing to being.

(cf. FiveOh (2002-09-29), NotCare (2006-02-13), Running to Stand Still (2008-07-05), Mind Over Exercise (2008-10-22), Hurry Patiently (2008-12-14), Cave of Pain (2009-12-18), Dimensionless and Therefore Infinite (2010-02-03), Being with Your Breath (2010-02-20), ...) - ^z - 2010-10-04