Life Changer

When I was in second grade, one book changed my life.  It was Charlotte’s Web and it so profoundly affected me that from that moment on, I went from being a kid who didn’t care one bit about school and books, to an avid reader and voracious book consumer.

I’ve finally met my second life changer:

A book so good that when I finished, I navigated back to the beginning on my trusty little Kindle and re-read the book, just in case I missed something the first time when I was so excited I might have skipped over some precious nugget of information–and just because I didn’t want it to be over.  And when I finished the second time…….just kidding, but I did skim over and re-read my favorite parts.  This is serious for someone who currently has about 800 unread books sitting on her Kindle and an insatiable need to read them all.  To not immediately begin a new book–uncharted territory, my friends.

A little background info about your humble narrator:

I discovered running the summer before my freshman year of high school and it (and running cross country on a successful, close-knit team), more than any other experience has really defined me and set the tone for the rest of my life.  Ever since high school and a short stint of collegiate track and cross country, running is something that has always been in my life.  It comes and goes in waves mostly defined by the seasons, my location, and to what degree of injury I’m currently experiencing.  But it has remained a constant, and I love running, deeply.  I’ve not found any other thing I can do that can match the sense of elation I can attain trail running–except for skiing in perfect powder and that just doesn’t happen often.  Running is a sure thing.  But I have had moments (months/years) where I treated it like something I had to do, or something I needed to do to stay skinny, or something that is going to be painful that I’ve just got to muster through.

A few years back, I tried to train for a marathon, but instead I contracted a staggering and game-ending case of IT Band Syndrome.  Over the course of the years since, I have rehabilitated this injury and continue to prevent it and treat minor flare-ups.  But I’ve been too scared to try marathon training again. When I was originally getting this injury diagnosed, the prevailing message from sports doctors was to stop running.  Running is bad for you.  Even complete strangers feel compelled to tell me I’m going to need knee replacement surgery because I keep running.  Even in Boulder, ultra-running mecca of the USA, every sports doc told me to take up cycling instead.  I just simply could not believe this to be true.  And I hate biking.  I love running.  I should be able to run.

This book changed my life because it has changed my knowledge about and my attitude towards running.  It taught me how to find the joy in running again.  And now, rather than waiting around for another injury to crop up, or enduring a 30 minute run so I can eat chocolate cake, I am embracing the sheer exultation and artistry of running that made me fall in love in the first place.  I am treating running like a holistic part of my life rather than something I do on the side.

The book has generated A LOT of press and misconceptions (but it’s also changed hundreds–maybe thousands of lives too).  Yes, the book makes the case for barefoot running and aggressive vegetarianism, but that is not the point or what it’s about.  Probably one of the most exciting pieces for me is the evolutionary link that is made.  We evolved to run long distances together in order to run down our food.  He reiterates the point:  what other species on this planet has the urge to gather by the tens of thousands to run 26 miles together?  We were made for running, not cycling, you silly Boulderite docs.  The link is also made that because we were persistence hunters and trackers, we also had to develop the need to be empathetic, make connections, think hypothetical thoughts, and make future predictions.  And thus you have technology and science and the reason why humans have advanced the way we have.  It’s exciting to consider.  We are the running people.  I loved one quote from the dude in his 90’s still running that Dipsea race in California, “you don’t stop running because you get old.  You get old because you stop running.” Consider me inspired!

I guess really the important lessons are that you have to correct your technique (which is where the barefoot stuff comes in), build strength, and work on your eating habits (in other words fix a lot of things in your running life) in order to run with joy injury-free.  And if everyone in the world were to realize all this and reconnect to their running roots, like they were born to do–like they evolved to do, you’d a have a happy, healthy, crime-free world.  Because like I learned in high school, running makes you a better person in your heart and soul, too.

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