Saturday, November 24

Running in winter

It has been a while since I last waxed romantic on something. Let us give it another shot.

Winter is bearing down on Munich. Needless to write, this has messed with my running as of late, but not for the reasons you might immediately assume. Yes, temperatures snuck below and dawdled just on the other side of freezing last week, and two weekends back there was even some snowfall that did not immediately melt. However, these have nothing to do with my fewer running outings. Rather, it is the shorter days. It gets quite tricky to find a free hour before the sun sets at 4:30 on those days I have classes. In all truth, the steadily worsening conditions have actually been an incentive to run, alongside my simple need to move. At least I had to walk downtown or between buildings at Gonzaga. Here, I just take the U-Bahn.

But I stray from my original purpose in writing about the ecstasy of running at the same time water molecules are settling into a place in which they feel firm. Certainly there are quantitative benefits (among them, less sweat and the freezing of mud that would otherwise spray across your back), but it is the qualitative that most interests me here. In a very real sense, the world goes still in the winter. Get away from the city and a good mile or two from any roads, and you will understand. The cacophony of the other seasons has gone. There are no leaves to rustle in the wind because they all have fallen. The playing of scrambling squirrels is curtailed by the cold, and those singing birds have long made their way south. In a figurative and oftentimes literal sense, the world has frozen in a moment of complete calm. There is nothing to draw your attention, and the senses strain to pick up the least of anything. Walking through it can be overwhelming, but running is different. With no distractions in the environment, all of your attention is drawn inward. I do not mean this in the sense of some emo teenage poet who bemoans the abyss that is their soul but of a complete awareness of every process going on in the body at that instant. Every step you take, every swing of the arms, every burning breath that you gulp down, you feel them and know that they just happened. All of those cerbellic processes that one never pays attention to otherwise dominate your mind. I have tried Zen meditation. Beginners are told to focus on their breathing. It is amazingly difficult, your mind and thoughts run madly off in all directions and constantly needing to be brought to heel once you actually remember that they are not concerned with breathing. Running in the cold does not suffer this problem. Naturally, all of your thoughts are brought into focus. I do not assume to suggest that running inspires the feeling of transcendence that Zen seeks, but there is a new appreciation for the wonder of the human body when you become aware of all that is normally hidden. It is a beautiful feeling.

To think, I used to ridicule my dad and sister for regularly participating in the Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run.

1 comment:

Emmett said...

As long as it's not windy, I'm good.