Monday, October 31, 2011

The Running Bug and the Web We Weave

For nearly 30 years now, I have run.  And for equally as long, I have been asked why I do it.  It is an appropriate question, and one that is never really easily answered.  I can usually respond to that question with an explanation that satisfies me, but rarely can address it to the approval of the questioner, unless the person asking is also a runner.  I guess it would be like me asking a Proctologist why they Proctologize.  But then again, I didn’t daydream about being a runner when I was in the second grade either.
The honest truth is that not only do we each run for our own personal reasons, but our individual motives change as we continue on our journey.  I can assure you that as a 26 year old, I ran for much different reasons than I do today.  When I was young, I didn’t worry about my health, or my girth, or my immortality, and I can assure you that today, I no longer train with illusions of running PR’s or with the belief that I will be young forever, and never lose a step.  Although I pushed it back for as long as I could, the reality of aging finally set in and now I begrudgingly accept it.   But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
But even with my glory days far behind me, most mornings I set my alarm for a time long before dawn, throw on my reflective vest and a headlamp, go out the door, and run.  And most days, when the run is completed, it is still dark.  No wonder people ask me why.  If I was anyone other than me, I would probably be asking myself the same question. 
But running is a bug, and once a bug bites you, it grips you tightly.  As I habitually weave my way around the neighborhood, spinning the same web day after day, month after month, year after year, I realize that I have no other choice. I don’t question why I do it, even though, as an objective observer, I know it doesn’t make sense.   I am a runner, and therefore, I run. 
I can remember when I was younger, living in North Carolina, around August of each year, as the humidity set in, big ugly spiders would show up out of nowhere, and would start spinning webs around my porch.  At around dusk they would come out, and start spinning their webs, very meticulous in their approach.  It was really a thing of beauty to watch them weave their calculated well-engineered webs, strand by strand, spoke by spoke.  I rarely stayed to watch until that night’s web was finished, but the next morning, there it was, a completed symmetrical snare, sometimes perfectly undisturbed, and other times with a fly, or a moth caught within its clutches.
I never really thought much about it back then in my youth as a runner, but have come to realize that I am much like those spiders, and this is yet another reason I run.  Did those spiders ever want to sleep in, and skip a night of web-weaving?  Who knows? As a spider ages, does he ask if it is worth it to continue spinning the same web night after night?  Probably not, because in reality a spider doesn’t have a choice.  Their nutrition, their sustenance, their reward is all built into that web. 
In much the same way, at a certain point in a runner’s life, the run becomes to a runner as the web is to the spider.  As we weave our way around our running routes, spinning our own webs in for form of miles, we realize we need it to sustain us.  We rarely question why we do it.  We just know we have to.  We are the species of human known as runners, and running is what we do.  It becomes instinctive. 
And for as long as the body allows it, the runner will not willingly not run.  He can’t.  To not run would leave him hungry, mal-nourished, and without the bug of nourishment.  Running is the web we weave.  And the web is what sustains us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Roads Whisper My Name

I do a lot of driving through the North Georgia Mountains and the Carolinas, and I've noticed that this part of the country has its share of quiet roads. Quiet, however, does not exactly mean silent. These roads actually talk to me through their tranquility, and they whisper my name, barely audible, but undeniable. They soothingly grab my attention, and once they have gotten it, under their breath, they always utter the same two-word refrain. Like a gentle breeze, they plead. "Run me."

Whenever I hear the call, I find myself for one brief moment rearranging the rest of the day in my mind, and, once that is done, I imagine myself pulling over to oblige the call. But there is always a reason I don't. Either I have an ultimately unyielding agenda for the day, or there are people waiting at the other end of my travels, or I'm just not ready to take that kind of risk, so the thought is fleeting. I have therefore always denied the invitation, tricking myself in to believing that maybe, some day, I'll return to answer that call. But thus far, though the roads are always inviting, I have not accepted the invitation. 

The roads that whisper my name are always roads less traveled, and that's what makes them so compelling. These whispering roads of which I speak all have a similar character. They are, for the eye's eternity, tree-lined, with an abundance of shade, and the roads themselves are always ascending until they ultimately stretch beyond view, only adding to the mystery and intrigue. Perhaps, if just one time, I chose to pull over, and accept the road's request to run, it would make all the difference. But so far, I have remained indifferent.

There are risks in the unknown and unrevealed, and these roads gently dare me and seemingly taunt me to find out what lies just beyond my view. That's why they continue to call out to me, and goad me by saying "Run me." The roads that whisper my name remain an unaccepted offer, and an unsolved mystery, because I continue to stay true to the paths I know, where I feel safe and protected. They remain an invitation I have yet to accept. But the temptation grows to some day give in to the plea. "Run me." 

Whispering roads are not like the roads I run every day, which have less and less to say as the years go on. The familiar roads no longer talk, as they did when they were new. They are reliable and predictable, and I run in peaceful communion with them, but there is little new on roads that I have come to know so well that I could traverse them with my eyes closed. They are, at the same time, safe, and somewhat monotonous. 

Perchance, the day will come when I wake up discovering that the same old road is no longer the comfort I had always thought it to be. Upon that realization, I may just hop in my car, and point it north, without any particular final destination, and without any specific activity to complete. I may drive with no other purpose but to hear, and be ready to respond to that whisper I've heard so many times before. "Run me." That road I choose may turn out to be a dead end, or it might possibly be a new beginning. But answering that whispering road might make all the difference.

Friday, October 14, 2011

And the Old Man Died

The old man poked his head out the front door to be sure that the coast was clear. He was about to do something drastic, and he preferred to have no witnesses. Perhaps, he was a little embarrassed about it. But he was frail and weak, with seemingly nothing to look forward to in his future, and he knew it. So the old man decided it was time to end his sorry old life. And he was going to do it by running.

He peered out to the neighbor's houses, first to his left, and then to his right. There was nobody else stirring in his well-maintained neighborhood, and so he knew that his time had come. So the sorry old man slowly closed the front door behind him, and sheepishly ran out to the street. And he attempted to put an end to a life whose dreams had left it long ago.

As he slowly jogged down the street, he thought his heart would explode. Was this how it was going to end? He felt way too old for this kind of exertion, and the old man could feel the blood rushing to his head as he pushed on. He wondered just how long it would be before his demise would come. His legs were screaming for a break, but he ignored the body's pleas to stop. He was an old man on a mission, and he pushed relentlessly on.

He ran for about a mile, a loop around the neighborhood, and finally, he saw his house coming up on his right. When he reached it, he stopped, gasping for air.  He could go no further, and so, right where he started the attempt, he stopped, stepped back inside his house, and collapsed motionless on his living room floor and just lay there. His whole body was pounding with every heartbeat, and he felt sick to his stomach. His chest hurt, and his legs throbbed, but that day, the old man didn't die. He lay on the floor, his mind racing, wondering if he was making a big mistake with his attempt to kill himself off.

For the next couple of days, eradicating himself was the last thing on the old man's mind. That one attempt seemed like it was enough to discourage him from ever trying again. He hurt all over, and he was close to resigning himself to settling on just being old and miserable forever. But by the third day, he was starting to revisit the thought of eliminating his sad old self again.

On the fourth day, he continued his attempt, and ran again. Just as the first time, he closed the door behind him, and he ran another mile. And a funny thing happened. Though it wasn't nearly enjoyable, he found it didn't hurt quite as much, and he actually felt a little better a little sooner afterwards. And the next day, the thought of trying again wasn't so for out of his mind.

The old man found that each time he ran, it became less and less painful, and now, instead of collapsing in the middle of the house after a run, he was actually starting to plan the next one. He purchased himself a running log, and began monitoring his progress. He bought himself a watch, and found that soon, his runs started getting quicker and quicker. He was finding that he was having dreams of the future, and had something to live for. He was starting to actually feel younger than he ever had before. But in reality, the old man was succeeding in his quest. The old man was dying.

The old man started entering races. At first, he could not run one all the way without stopping. There were often very few people, if any, behind him, but the old man didn't seem to mind. After all, he was an old man, so it was positive that he was doing this at all. He continued running, and he continued racing, and he continued to experience a slow death. His weekly mileage increased to 15 miles, then through the 20's, and even into the 30's some weeks, and his race times dropped. 40 minute 5K times dropped to 35 minutes, then 30 and even 25 minutes and lower.

The old man was now 6 months into his running, and in one action, was getting in better and better shape, and inching closer to his inevitable death planned a half year earlier. He was actually starting to feel very good. But his running indicated that he still had a serious death wish. He ran more than ever, and was still getting faster. His life was becoming full, and his dreams were starting to appear in vivid color.

As he approached the finish line of the race this day, he looked down at his watch. 22:10. Never in a million years did the man dream of running such a fast time. As he crossed the finish line, with one last big push, he went to stop his watch to immortalize this race. Then he looked at the watch, just to be sure it was true. The watch was blank. The battery had given out.  Watches can also die.

At the awards ceremony, the trophies went three deep in each age group. He waited and wondered as they announced the awards in the youngest age groups first. Finally, they announced the winners in his age group. First place, and then second place in his age group were announced. His name was not called. Then they announced the third place winner. It was him. The old man had won third place in his age group. The 25-29 year age group.

He went to pick up his award, and as he proudly carried it back to embrace his young bride and baby, he knew that he had finally accomplished his goal. He had finally killed off the old man, and replaced it with the fit, youthful 26 year old he had wanted to become when he first started running.  Looking back, he realized it was a slow, and sometimes painful death, but he knew the old man would not be missed. He liked who he had become much better.

He gazed at his blank watch one more time. How ironic, he mused, that at the exact same time, the watch stopped never to beep again, and the old man died.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dare to Go Bare

As a runner, I have always trained to the specific task. When I am running marathons, I train by running longer distances. When I am running Peachtree, a July 4th race in Atlanta, I train in the heat. If my goal is to lower my 5K time, I run intervals on the track to increase speed. The bottom line is, my training is specific to my goals.

I'm not alone in my philosophies. Elite runners train at altitude to prepare for high attitude races. Most runners do hill workouts to help prepare for rolling courses. So, what is my dilemma, you may ask?

I recently registered for a race called "Dare to Bare 5K." It is run, how shall we say? Well, let's put it this way. I would be very surprised to see any running apparel companies sponsoring this one, but suntan lotion companies may have a vested interest in it, and I may have a mutual interest in loading up on the stuff. I have some sensitive parts I would like not to see burned.

So, I figured, train how you plan to race, right? Well, I tried, and immediately received a stern warning from my neighborhood's homeowner's association. Strange, I thought. They never minded me doing speedwork or long distance. Even my fartlek barely raised an eyebrow. But THIS race specific training, somehow, offended enough people that I had to take my training indoors, to a treadmill.

So I did, and you'll never guess what happened. They revoked my membership at the club whose treadmill I used. They said my exposure was indecent, which was in direct conflict with my assumption that I was getting in pretty good shape. I don't understand. They promote these places as a safe haven to sculpt your body, and then, when you show it off, they get all huffy about it.

While I was doing my wash that evening, I was still so upset about the eviction I had experienced earlier in the day, that I accidentally threw a pair of my running shorts in the wash with the sturdy cottons, and then threw them in the dryer under high heat. Usually, I wash them on a delicate setting, and then hang them up to dry, to save their elasticity. These shorts were ruined. There was no stretch in them at all, and they could no longer give me any support at all. And I thought I could trust all my athletic supporters. Now I had none. First the neighborhood, then my health club, and finally, even my own shorts stopped supporting me.

Then it hit me! Wasn't this the goal of this event specific training from the start? To train with as little support as possible, while still staying within the guidelines of good taste and applicable law? Now, I had my answer.
I quickly pinned the waistband of my shorts together with a couple of safety pins, so I wouldn't be wearing them around my ankles. The parts of my shorts that used to carry me through my long runs where down to about my knees now, and certainly no longer functional for that purpose, but that was exactly what I wanted.

So now, with my newly designed shorts, with everything hanging a little lower than before, I can once again train around the neighborhood without stares of horror coming my way. They have welcomed me back at my health club with open arms. And I am preparing well for my special race too, with a freedom the likes of which I have never known before. And I take special satisfaction in knowing something that nobody else realizes. Under my running shorts, I am actually naked. Don't tell anybody.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thoughts of a Roads Scholar: I am at None with Nature

Thoughts of a Roads Scholar: I am at None with Nature: "Once, I read a Woody Allen quote that said, 'I am at two with nature.' I'm not sure where I read that, but my hunch is it was in ..."

I am at None with Nature

Once, I read a Woody Allen quote that said, "I am at two with nature." I'm not sure where I read that, but my hunch is it was in one of my many John Jerome runner's logs, because I don't do a whole lot of other reading. 
But that quote, much like almost everything else about Woody Allen, I never really understood.

For the last month or so, my own take on it has been that "I am at none with nature," But I think I can explain what I mean when I say it. I came to that realization early this morning, when I stepped out the door for my run and was met with thick damp heavy air.

For nine months of the Atlanta year, I look forward to virtually every run with eager anticipation, and I'm ready to meet nature's challenges. In reality, spring and autumn practically beg you to run in them, and pose virtually no opposition at all. They are mostly perfect for running, at just about any time of day or night. And the scenery is gorgeous. Whether it is the lightly scented and heavily colorful new blooms of spring, or the outstanding fiery foliage of autumn, I find myself at one with nature.

Winter can pose a slightly more objectionable obstacle for some, but I personally enjoy charging into the teeth of a biting wind, and I always make a point of jumping into the midst of a rare falling snow. I'd rather be out running when it's 20 degrees than 50 degrees, so even on weekends, I'm most often out running before the first hints of daylight. It's me against the elements, and I'm always ready for the battle, and the victory. In the back of my winter mind, I am always reminding myself that there are many parts of the country where they would scoff at our thin skin anyway.

But then there are those three saddest of all possible words for runners like me. Those words are June, July and August. The temperature rises in tandem with inflated race times, and just the thought of running much more than four miles at a stretch exhausts me. Even at 5 in the morning, there is often nary a hint of coolness in the soggy morning air, and the humidity is often close to 100%. There is nothing desirable under the sun, or the moon during the dog days of summer. The same stars that shone so brightly in the crisp winter skies are hardly noticeable now and spring's bright colors have given way to a monochrome and mundane green. And sadly, I have not been at one with nature. I have been at none with it.

This morning was another in a series of motivational struggles. The official temperature was 80 degrees and the humidity was even higher than that.  The moon had a very strange halo-like haze surrounding it, indicating that this weather is going to be around for a while.  The only consolation is that the run was done in darkness rather than under a glaring sun, but I refuse to give in to a treadmill, so I get up early. Very early.  Even being at none with nature is better than not being with nature at all.

We're probably at least a month away from that morning when I open the door to go out in the darkness, and am greeted with surprisingly dry cool breeze, which hints more of September than July, but it will be worth the wait.   There is a smug satisfaction these days when the weather flirts with triple-figures later in the day in knowing that your run is far behind you, and your daily mission is complete.  For right now, it's about the only positive glimmer I can come up with in the grip of the dog days of summer.

Maybe I am closer to being at one with nature than I give myself credit for.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Beer Has Sustained Me

Some things in life are truly paradoxical. For example, why in nature, would the hardest part of the human body be in direct contact with the softest part of the human body, fully capable of doing severe damage? Anyone who has ever bitten their tongue knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Most of the runners that I know represent a similar oxymoron. ( No, an oxymoron is not a dumb person with zits.) To casual observers, we are a picture of good health and good living. We run, therefore we probably eat fresh fruits and vegetables all day long, drink nothing but sparkling water, and wouldn’t go near red meat with a ten foot pole. I don’t know about you, but rabbit food just doesn’t cut it for me.

It is true that we do share some common health beliefs. Rarely do I see a runner smoking before a race, but it’s not unheard of. One of the nicest things about post race parties is that they are smoke free, a fact appreciated by all. But to see what food disappears first at those post race gatherings is the window to the soul of the runner.

I was at a race recently where post race refreshments included pizza, sub sandwiches, assorted cookies, and bananas. I saw people walk off with three pieces of pizza, and then return for more when their stash was gone. I saw people hoarding down handfuls of cookies without caloric guilt or remorse. People were crowded around the sub table to the point where you couldn’t nudge through to see what was left. Thanks to the sponsors who provided the feast. There was plenty of everything for everyone.

One table was practically ignored. The bananas. I didn’t see anyone look both ways and then grab a bunch of bananas when nobody was looking. There was no need for a sign that said “Please limit yourself to one banana only.” Most people were limiting themselves to no bananas. Curious, I thought that these health conscious people would bypass the obvious choice in favor of fat and empty calories.
As I thought about this, I realized that the five pieces of pizza I had just eaten had made me extremely thirsty. Boy, I could go for a beer right now. Beer. The one universal drink of the runner. Is there a runner alive who is not also a beer lover? Just give me my Samuel Adams after a training run and it truly doesn’t get any better than this.

I am an analytical thinker and try to make sense out of everything. So, of course, I started wondering why good running seemed to go hand in hand with bad eating and beer drinking. Well, I think I have figured out the answer in a way that at least I can understand. It’s really quite simple if you do the math. Let’s start with the facts.

3500 calories will always equal one pound. This is a simple mathematical equation.
Each mile you run burns approximately 100 calories.
Each beer you drink adds about 150 calories.
Personally, I maintain a steady weight of about 150 pounds, which remains steady from year to year. I average about 120 miles of running per month. At 100 calories per mile, that means that each month, I burn about 12,000 calories running.
120 miles X 100 calories = 12,000.
12,000 calories = 3.42 pounds. That’s how much weight I lose each month by running.

In order to stay even, I need to intake an equivalent number of calories from beer.

12,000 divided by 150 (calories per beer) = 80 beers per month, or 2.66 beers per day. I willingly do this to maintain the balance of nature. The first 2 beers are easy, but the last .66 is a bit harder. I haven’t yet figured out how to keep the carbonation going from one day to the next once the bottle is opened.
Simple math again tells me that I cannot stop drinking beer even if I wanted to (which, thank goodness, I don’t.) Here’s why.

Suppose I stopped drinking beer today and changed nothing else about my lifestyle. I’d still run my 120 miles a month, and I’d lose 3.42 pounds in the process. In only one year, I would lose 41.1 pounds. My weight would drop to under 110 pounds and I’d have to listen for high wind advisories before going outside. In only three short years, I will have lost 123.3 pounds, bringing my weight down to 26.7 pounds. I could get a job as a wind sock at the airport. In less than four years, I wouldn’t even be here any more. I would be totally gone.

Quit drinking beer? How can I? I am forced to drink in self defense. I take comfort in the fact that health experts now say that a beer a day may be better for you than total abstinence. So I figure you can never get too much of a good thing. I’m probably guaranteed good health through the year 2072 by now. Besides, we all have to do our part to contribute to the balance of nature (and the bathroom scale.) So bring on the pizza, sub sandwiches, cookies, and, most importantly, keep drinking beer.

And save the bananas for the monkeys.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Sometimes Wonder

I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Charles, Chip, Joe, Tom, and George. My guess is that you wouldn't know any of these people, but at one time, they were simultaneously my peers and my heroes. These were the people who were in my grade school classes back in New Jersey in the mid 1960's. Or they were on the same little league team I played on. And to me, they were in some ways bigger than life, because they were all amazing athletes. I wanted to be just like them.

They all had the kind of abilities that made them the envy of many.  In gym class, for example, when we all got in that dreaded line where we counted off by 4's to pick the teams, everyone would check out where these people were standing. Then, they would scramble for position in the line like a human Three Card Monte, hoping to be on the same team. A guy named Ira was the only person who ever told me that he would focus on me when he got in the line. I was flattered, but Ira wasn't the best volleyball player I ever saw.

Somehow, Charles, Chip, Joe, and the rest of them seemed to excel at every sport they engaged in. They could shoot a basketball with uncanny accuracy, and throw a football farther than anyone else, with a perfect spiral every time. When it came to baseball, they could hit, throw, and field better than anyone else. I never saw any of them play ice hockey, but my hunch is that hockey just may have been the sport to humble them. In the back of my mind, I just knew that they were all headed for the professional sport of their choosing some day, and I could say I used to know them way back when. They were all athletically gifted, and it all seemed to come easy, and naturally.

And one more thing that they could do better than anyone else. They could all run like the wind. It didn't matter whether it was a 100 yard dash, or the mile we had to run for the President's Physical Fitness Test each year. We didn't know about fast twitch/slow twitch muscle fibers back then, so it didn't matter. If you could run, you could run any distance. We were yet to be blinded by the science that dictated what our physical limits should be.

When I was in the 7th grade, I moved to Pennsylvania, and I have never heard another thing about any of them since. In the mid 1970's, when these athletes would have been breaking into the big times, I'd study the team rosters for every professional team in every professional sport. No Chip. No Charles. No Tom. No Ira, either, but that didn't surprise me much. What could have possibly gone wrong?  What kept these fine competitors from achieving what I had decided early on they would accomplish? Were they stuck in the minor leagues somewhere, buried in the obscurity of small towns and few fans?

The 70's ended, and a new decade was ushered in. Still, every new season, I studied team rosters, but I never saw a familiar name. Has anybody ever gone to grade school with a future professional athlete?  I don't know of anyone who has. By now, all these people who were going to make their mark with their athleticism were in their mid 20's, almost middle age by these highest of standards. If they didn't make it soon, they would not have a chance. In the meantime, I decided to start running. I figured if I couldn't save the world, I might as well at least save myself.

By the mid 80's, I kind of knew that I would never see Charles, George and the rest of them in a box score. 30 is old by elite sports standards. I found myself thinking about them less and less often.  Occasionally, however, they would cross my mind, and again, I would wonder exactly what ever happened to them. Whenever I did think about them, it would invariably be during a run. I would think about them, and usually I would smile at the athlete I had become.

On this morning's run, they were all there in my mind again. I wondered again what went wrong, why did none of them ever succeeded with their overwhelming athletic talents. Then, in an instant, it hit me. Here I was, doing what I love doing most, and something I plan to continue doing for many years, wondering what would have happened to them if they had reached the pinnacle of athletic fame.

For one thing, they would be long retired from their passion by now.  Their age alone would have disqualified them from professional sports well before their mid 40's. I'm lucky in my chosen sport in that I've already been running for close to 30 years, far longer than all but the most successful professional sports careers. I know people who have been running for twice as long, and don't plan to ever stop.

So who knows what happened to Charles, Chip, Joe, Tom and George? Perhaps some of them might have been dragged down by the hard knocks of life, and their main goal had to become simply one of survival. Or maybe among them, there was a career ending injury before they ever got out of the blocks. It's possible that they never intended to be professional athletes in the first place. That was only my idea for them, and might not have ever been their plan for themselves. They might be doctors, or attorneys, or teachers today. They might have decided at some point to stop playing and grow up.

I just hope that they never stopped running like the wind.

Especially Ira.

Friday, April 29, 2011

But it's an Honest Sweat

I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm not an avid reader, and when I do read, it's usually for self-discovery, and not for entertainment. Most often, when I pick up a book, it is with a desire to learn how to improve some element of me, or to acquire tools which allow me to see things more clearly, or with the intent of learning to understand other people or myself in a different, more positive light.

Mostly, I read for inspiration, and last night was no exception. With my own writing in a dormant stage lately, I picked up an older book I hadn't looked at in a long time, with the hope of becoming once again inspired to write. When I opened it, the first thing I noticed was how discolored the pages had become since I had last picked it up. But though the pages had yellowed, the words were still as timeless and appropriate as when they were first written, and they danced off the aged pages as I read. The book was “Running and Being” and the author was George Sheehan.

I wasn't even half way through the forward before I realized that today was going to be a writing day for me. When I read about how, in his own opinion, Sheehan the writer and Sheehan the runner were inseparable and one would likely not exist without the other, I acquiesced, remembering how I used to feel the same way about myself.

Dr. Sheehan was not my first inspiration as a runner, but he was my first inspiration as a writer. Through him, I learned how to unite my two passions, creating a compound word “runnerwriter” which I define as the “path to the purest form of revelation and honesty.”  Sheehan chose to write immediately after his run, opting to towel off instead of showering because “Honest sweat has no odor.”   But if you look deeper, there's much more to it than that.

Running sweat is as honest as sweat can get. The activity of running breaks through the falsehoods and the colored filters, and reveals the truths about one’s self, others, and life in a way that no other activity parallels, at least to the runner. It is the unique and seemingly antagonistic combination of acute awareness and complete serenity in the same instant that makes running sacred. Many refer to that feeling as “Runner's High.” I think of it as “Runner's Truth” revealed overtly as honest sweat. Why should we be in such a hurry to rinse it away?

As I mentioned earlier, I have been experiencing another in a continuing series of bouts with writer's block. It's not that the ideas haven't been there. Running has been as enlightening as ever, and I've been learning more about the sport I love, the things I love, the people I love, and the person I am becoming than ever before. But somewhere between the run and the write, it has all been washed away time and time again. After being reminded again last night of how George did it, I'm confident that I'm back in the groove.

Dr. Sheehan knew better than to shower off the residue of the run before he captured his thoughts on paper. He simply ran, toweled off, and then wrote what the run revealed, while the thoughts were still fresh and honesty was still oozing out of his every pore. It resulted in primitive truths, written in modern words that will hold true for as long as the human species continues running and being.

So this morning I ran, accumulating new truths with every step. I delighted in feeling the salty truth serum dripping over my eyes, down my neck, squishing in my shoes, and saturating my singlet and shorts. Then, I toweled off, and sat down to write, still feeling the fresh film of sweat of the previous three miles in cool and crisp late April Atlanta.

Ah. But it's an honest sweat.