(First published September 29, 2014)
My friend Richard says it sometimes takes him three or four miles to find his stride.
It’s the place in every run where you aren’t thinking about the mechanics of running: speed, coordination between breathing and steps. It’s the place where you aren’t thinking about whether you can afford the time for this run, where you aren’t taking every twinge in your knee or ankle or breathing as a sign to quit. It’s the place where start to actually just run.
Richard runs marathons. So he has plenty of time to run after finding his stride. At the time in my running he said it, a long run WAS three miles. “Never find my stride in a whole run?” I thought. “That’s depressing.”
But as I thought about it, and as I kept running, I realized that he was giving me a gift. Even for experienced runners, starting is often rocky. There is often resistance. But if you keep moving, the rhythms of leg and lung, arms and heart, feelings and focus begin to settle down. You run slower than you know you can. You take your time.
Now that I can run further, nearly seven miles at a time, I understand Richard’s words. If I can make it past the first mile or two, I can often make it five or six.
I thought about all the friends I know who say, “I tried to listen to God, but all I heard was the noise in my head.” Or they say, “Three days in a row. I was asking God for wisdom. But then I kind of forgot.” And what I wish I had known to say was, “Sometimes it takes three or four miles.”
And it may take a few weeks to be able to run that far.