If you haven’t already, I recommend you read Part I of this story before reading this.
I left off the story “somewhere on a path along the beach [in New Zealand]… something starting going really smoothly.” I was trying to describe the feeling when something you’ve done over and over starts to feel just right, as if you’ve been meant to do it all along. One of my favorite professors at Warren Wilson College taught us about “Flow,” a theory developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (also, one of my favorite names to try to pronounce). Flow is described by Csikszentmihalyi as:
Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.
Others might call this being in “the zone,” or finding your groove. All I know is that it felt right, and when I found myself entering this state of being while running, I started wanting more! I would plan routes that went up big hills just for the hell of it. I had an easier time waking up and heading out before sunrise (sometimes with a headlamp) to start my day with a burst of energy. As a brand ambassador, I was recently asked to write a bio for the SKORA Running website and while thinking about what running means to me, I came up with this:
For me, running is a journey. Each time my foot leaves the ground, propelling me forward, I learn something new about my body. My ankle bends, my calf muscle flexes, my knee springs into action and so it goes, all the way up to my mind paying attention to the rhythm of my breathing. This is my body communicating with itself to keep me running, whether it is 2 miles or 13.1. I began to enjoy running when I began to listen to my body and pay attention to these messages.
This is it. I am a runner. If you read my last post, you will have some understanding of how surprising it is, still, to see myself write those words. Back in New Zealand, I was training for my second half-marathon, and was actually starting to enjoy the process. We planned the race around our departure from New Zealand and worked out perfectly to be a week after we left our jobs. My parents had arrived to visit and Kaitlin and I embarked on a three week road trip around the South Island with them. Our week leading up to the race was a little bit unusual, as we were on the road visiting places like Cape Foulwind Seal Colony, Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks), and Fox Glacier. We managed to get some short runs in, while also staying active by hiking and walking everyday.
We arrived in Wanaka a couple days before the race and spent some time walking around the small town, checking out local shops and restaurants (and beer, of course). The day before the race, Kaitlin and I drove the course to check it out. Normally, I would not recommend this because it can be intimidating to realize how long it can take to drive 13.1 miles, knowing that you will be doing all that on foot. This was no exception, however, since it was a one way course (starting 13.1 miles from Wanaka and running back into town), we would have to make that drive the morning of the race and it was nice to get the shock of the distance out of the way the day before!
Race day came and we were at the starting line before sunrise. Although it was a chilly start, we warmed up quickly as we started moving and watched the sunrise over the nearby mountains. My parents acted as our race support team and stopped every so often the first few miles to take pictures and collect our long-sleeve layers as we warmed up (thanks, mom and dad!). They then headed back into town to grab breakfast before meeting us at the finish line to take more pictures and cheer us on. I had set a goal of finishing in just under two hours, meaning I would be running at a pace of just over 9 minutes per mile. As it turns out, I arrived at the finish line 1 hour, 51 minutes, and 37 seconds after I started. I actually beat my parents to the finish line (although they took a roundabout route). As I crossed, they were just walking over from the car and heard my name called out. This was the moment I knew that I would never turn back from running.
Fast forward 11 months and here we are, living and training in Portland, Oregon. I am currently training for a 15k Shamrock Run (remember what we did last year on St. Patrick’s day?), the Rock ‘n Roll Portland Half-Marathon on Kaitlin’s birthday (May 19th), and the Tough Mudder near Portland in June. I have organized a weekly running club through work at the Icebreaker TouchLab store in Portland’s Pearl District. If you are in Portland on a Wednesday evening, we leave the store at 6pm for a casual run just under 4 miles. I would never have expected for running to becoming such a part of my life.
I’ll continue to write about my experience as a runner, including my recently achieved long distance. Next I’ll write about how the food I fuel my body with relates to my approach to running. I will include a couple recipes for homemade, on-the-go energy snacks.