I ran a 5k yesterday. Well mostly. I walked a couple of the hills, trying to protect a groin muscle that gets strained easily. It was hard, but not as bad as I was expecting it to be, seeing as how I haven’t been running too much lately. I got to Chestnut Hill right around 8 am, to meet up with my friend Una, with whom I would be running. It was very cold, a big shocker after last weekend’s 70 degree temperatures. We checked in, got our tee-shirts and packets of throwaway information and tried to stay warm in the cuttingly windy field.
As we waited for the race to begin we warmed up, bouncing up and down on our toes, and half-heartedly stretched. We talked about the last 5k we ran together, the one last fall where she bumped into her ex-boyfriend, and I realized just how out of shape I was (sadly, I was struck again today with a very similar understanding of my endurance). We talked about how we recently both committed to some friends to do the Broad Street Run, and what the last date to back out could be in case we aren’t ready. We talked about dating, how our attitudes towards it continue to shift and flex, but how we both would like to meet men who could be right for us.
Talking about men, and our hopes for future partnerships, I looked around the field near the porta-potties where we were standing, thinking about how many people were there, all of them strangers to me. And my imagination started to go wild. I started thinking, maybe, in just a second, I would accidentally bump into a guy, and as we both stumbled over an apology, a spark would light between us. The conversation would flow easily for a minute before they called runners to the start, and we’d have to return to our separate groups of friends. We’d run the race and he’d watch for me at the end (because I would have let it slip that I was a very slow runner, averaging just around 12 1/2 minutes per mile), and cheer me on as I ran through the finish. Just the scenario for a good romantic comedy. Of course this fantasy did not play out. The only words I exchanged before the race with a stranger were with the woman who handed me registration packet, and told me very specifically how to pin my number to my sweatshirt.
As a child, I had a theory that if I could imagine a scenario before it happened, then it wouldn’t actually occur. For instance, if my parents were going on a trip, I would play out all the bad things that could happen to them, because if I thought it, then it couldn’t possibly occur. This childhood superstition has carried through to my current life, but instead of preventing me from experiencing tragedy, I feel cursed by this expectation. I assume now that whenever I have an actively imaginary moment, that by letting the scene play out in my head, I’m preventing these creative things from actually taking place in my real life. My brain battles on this front, both enjoying the trip and feeling defeated by the presumed understanding that I’m thinking situations out of existence.
What brought me back from all this internal exploration and self-flagellation was the actual run. As my body slowly covered the roads of the race route, all I could focus on was moving forward. There were no imagined scenes or situations, no interior voice telling me that I had now cancelled out a potential existence for myself by thinking it. I was intent and present in my body, conscious only of how I was feeling, what was happening with my muscles and how it felt to be inside of me at that moment. I realized in a flash that this was the perspective from which I want to observe my life. I foresee more running in my future.
I may have mentioned at the last meetup about how I had been recently chosen for jury duty and how, in a similar fashion to how you have described, I tried to envision all possible outcomes of my selection; primarily, this included being selected as a juror or being sent home after hours of tedious wating.
True to form, the one thing that happened is the one thing I did not imagine happening: Selected as an alternate, neither sent home early nor taken as a useful participant for all of my trouble.
As you say, it is only really useful to observe and experience the “now”.
I *might* do this year’s Broad Street Run; I’ll *likely* do the Philly Distance Run again. What say you? 13 miles, eh? Perhaps we can form a UU contingent at the BSR.