Last week I was on my way from Edison to Passaic, NJ to speak at a meeting. My friend “Sherri” picked me up, and her sister “Lisa”, who I had never met before was in the car as well. We were in the midst of a huge rain storm and when I opened the door to get in I asked Sherri if perhaps we should cancel our plan to go, but she said she was up for the adventure. What should have been a 45 minute ride in usual traffic took us over 2 hours! Even WAZE couldn’t get us out of this mess!
The good news is that Lisa loves running like I do, so we had a lot to talk about!! She started running about 3 years ago while I started 2 years ago. We spoke about how much running has changed our bodies, mind and lives as a whole. We traded some funny running stories, like the time it was so hot on a Dallas run around White Rock lake that I flagged down a police car, asked them to drive me to my car, and when I tried to let myself out of the car, the police said, “Ma’am, you can’t let YOURSELF out of the back seat of a police car!”
Lisa and I have both completed several half-marathons. While I am sticking to halves and sprint triathlons for now, Lisa decided to start training for a full marathon! If you are not aware, full marathons are TWENTY SIX MILES!! That is a long distance and requires many, many hours and months of training. Lisa is very smart and hired herself a running coach! She told me about her weekly schedule, the speed work she does with him on Wednesdays and the way he wants her to listen to her breath when she runs. “Listen to your breath?” I said. “How do you listen to your breath when you are listening to music?” Lisa laughed and told me about how she used to listen to music while she ran but started going for the quiet instead. She said how much it has made a difference in her experience. She even spends some of that quiet time in prayer for people who are in need. Nice, but no music???
So the next day I tried running without my earphones and Pandora.
For many years I have began each morning with 20 minutes of meditation. It helps quiet my mind and tune into the frequency. The particular meditation I do has 5 parts and they are each 4 minutes long. It just so happens that my run-walk pattern is 3 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of walking repeated over and over during the course of my run (see http://www.jeffgalloway.com for more info on the run-walk-run method which I absolutely love!) So each run/walk pattern is a 4 minutes long. 4 minutes for each meditation part, 4 minutes for each run/walk cycle. How divine is that?
That morning I meditated for 20 minutes while running. I followed that by 4 minute cycles of prayer for each member of my family, asking for their health physically, emotionally and spiritually, and for how I can be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister (you get the point) to them. I talked to God about lots of things. I never once missed the Pandora. In fact, I enjoyed the quiet. So since then I have been running with God instead of running with Pandora. And this morning I took a 7 mile run around Central Park and enjoyed every minute of my conversation with God.
We finally made it to the meeting that night, albeit quite late. They simply had me speak at the end of the meeting instead of at the start! The ride home was half as bad, so Sherri, Lisa and I still had plenty of time to talk about all sorts of things….parents, siblings, our journeys in Judaism. As runners will understand, no matter how fast or slow your pace, the subject of running came up again. I am so glad it did because Lisa said something that really struck me and I believe has made a lasting impression on me. She said that she used to get overwhelmed by the miles that were to come. For example, if she had finished 4 miles of a 10 mile run, she would be thinking about how in the world was she going to do that 9th and 1oth mile. That sort of thinking produced anxiety and made it harder to run. So she decided to stop thinking about the miles ahead and instead focus only on the current mile she is in.
I immediately thought that while that IS a great way to complete a half or full marathon, “one mile at a time,” it is also a great metaphor for life itself. We can only truly deal with the present moment. One moment at at time. I have said for years, “if you want to know where you are, look at your feet,” “blossom where you are planted,” “you are not there now, you are here!” In essence, instead of worrying about what might come next or the hurdles that we must overcome, to simply focus on right now, this moment. And as my teacher Rabbi Nivin always says, “do the best you can and take the next step in the service of God.”
So whether it is on the running path or the path of life, remember to RUN THE MILE YOU ARE IN.