Running on Ice and a Lesson from the Harley
Icy roads and sidewalks can spell peril for a runner or walker, especially when it is icy enough to daunt drivers. I decided not to let that be the case for me as I contemplated donning my running gear to tackle the elements. After all, I had been sitting all day geeking out on the computer with tweetchats and email, blogs and bills. My body and brain were screaming for some endorphins. And I needed the run to sort through the ideas and intricate threads of the tapestry woven in the chats.
I put on my “studded snow tires,” rubber over shoe fittings with metal teeth embedded in the bottoms to dig into ice and snow. Setting my music, timer, and pedometer on my phone and slipping it into its holster, I gingerly began a slow trot to test the conditions and my “studded snow tires.” The crunching of the ice beneath my feet assured me that the teeth were indeed biting into the ice and would keep me from slipping and sliding. Not entirely trusting of the footing to lose myself in thought, I kept my eyes on the road about three feet in front of me, with a quick glance up farther ahead at about 25 feet every so often. I kept my pace a bit shorter than usual to be sure the conditions of the ice and my footing on it didn’t change.
I could tell that this run was not the easy and comfortable run of yesterday, but I knew it was not the horrible one I had had several nights before. It was an average run, a little more challenging, a little more draining, but average.
Heading up the hill, my breathing labored, feet working hard to find the right footing, I kept my eyes on the path just ahead. It occurred to me that I was operating in the present moment by necessity. I began to observe my thoughts and actions. (This always interests me as it seems to be more than one “Me” involved. Thanks to Eckert Tolle.) My eyes generally focused on the road at about two and a half feet in front of me. Every few seconds, they swept up to about “twelve seconds” in front of me. That comes from riding a motorcycle where the rule of thumb is to “keep your eyes twelve seconds ahead of you.” It means that you put your focus on the spot that will take you twelve seconds to reach at whatever speed you are traveling. Using this Harley approach to my icy run meant that I was aware of what was coming in the distance whether that was a car, a chunk of snow or ice, a curve, etc. My main focus was on the two and a half to three feet in front of my feet and keeping from stepping on the golf ball sized ice chunks that would cause my ankles to roll or throw me off balance.
As the road continued to unfold in front of me, I recognized that another one of the rules I had learned on the Harley was to NOT look at an upcoming pothole, or bump, or obstacle as I would certainly hit it. Whatever you focus on, you either attract or steer right into! The same was happening with the icy run. I use my peripheral vision to recognize an obstacle but my focus was on the steps around the obstacle. And so I ran with intention, with my focus on that moment, where my feet were, where the open road was, what chunks of ice awaited my weak ankles. I felt the ice or the bare road crunching beneath my “studded snow tires.” I heard the beat of the music in my ears but paid far closer attention to the sound of the ground beneath my feet. Eyes sweeping before me kept my safety guard activated. For an hour I could only be in the moment because each time my mind strayed, the ice bit me.
It is hard work to stay present, to move and navigate with intentionality. Yet the rest it provided for my mind allowed for more organized thinking later in the evening. This was great practice for living with intention and being truly present. All I have to trust and enjoy is this moment, this breath, this heartbeat. Everything beyond that is a bonus. I was granted an hour of this moment, this breath, this footstep, this crunch, this heartbeat. Grateful for the reflections and that ability to reflect, and each moment.
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