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.