Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Getting Better

Getting Better
by Monte Riggs

As these mornings get gradually colder I strangely no longer look for excuses to stay home. In fact it has become a kind of test of strength that I've begun to relish in a way I haven’t as a runner in a long time. Why this kind of insanity? For several years I began to think my body was in steady decline and allowed myself to slip into sad acceptance of that apparent deterioration. After 3 decades in which running had become a big part of my life I started to wonder if my running days might be over. I had seen it happen to friends. Perhaps my time had come as well. But now, for the first time in a long time, I am seeing evidence of improvement in both strength and endurance. I realized it is my mental outlook that changed the most.

I moved to Presidio County in June, coming from an altitude of less than 100 ft. to almost 5000 ft. When I first started running here I quickly started to dread the morning run. The modest hills on Mimm’s Ranch road combined with the altitude left me wheezing and walking before I reached the top. The rough washboard texture of the road made my ankles and knees hurt and finding a comfortable place to step difficult at best. I had grown accustomed to a well worn foot path whose 3 mile loop I had long ago memorized.

This morning is cold by my standards, at least running north where the rough gravel road takes me into the teeth of a north wind for half of my run. The return is warmer with a slight tail wind and brilliant sunshine heating me enough that I often have to shed a layer of running gear. Waves of sparrows or chickadees in silhouette against the bright morning sunlight break away before me, launching themselves from the tall grasses and creosote bush to scatter across the road ahead of me, their flight pattern a rhythm of rising and falling just above the tops of the grasses surfing on the slowly warming air. I find that regardless of the conditions, my focus is more on the beauty of my surroundings rather than any discomfort from running. Occasionally I am so moved I feel compelled to stop and watch a small raptor gliding low across the pasture or the color of the grasses and sky even on a cloudy day. Because I have bad feet, running for me has always been accompanied by some level of discomfort and pain realizing that at age 63 I can get better makes the daily ritual of exercise fun again.

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