scorpions to desire

Yesterday, in a pocket-hour of warm air, I was reminded of my spring running lament: is one really a vegan when one inhales gnat sandwiches? The absurdity of that thought of a bug diet was not unlike a sign for a neighbour I read on my return to my building: "Crazy woman! Stop throwing cacti about the building! Clean up that mess." (Indeed, we all heard a moment of anger and something being jettisoned in the early hours...but, a cactus?!) It's the element of the unexpected that's the theme of this running post.
Last time I wrote, I was sure sick days off were going to ruin my running gains. As it is, for over a week now, several minutes have been shaved off my time per mile, without my trying since I try to execute "easy days easy". It's unexpected. I also noted that even though I thought that I'd finished getting all the new fancy muscle through just running, I keep visibly gaining muscle. I keep planning to add in strength work, but up to now, I think that would be overkill for me because I can see (and feel, through sustainable exhaustion) that my body is responding to running. This is another reason why I felt so vindicated reading Murakami's book on running: he also considers running the activity he responds best to on a physical level. Before taking up running again in this latest phase of my life, I'd been doing multiple two-hour exercise sessions of squats, etc., none of which built the muscle I now have. The take away here being: we really are an experiment of one. As support, I'll cite Jack Daniels, who is adamant about this.
The race I am training for suddenly lost its accreditation (unpaid bills) and I'll need to take another (unexpected) break from training. But I have yet to develop the race mindset where the race prevails over training in importance. My goal is to increase speed to increase daily quality of life (seeing more sights on daily runs; saving a little time for other things). Then again, last year, I didn't care about speed at all, so things change.


I was contemplating Jamil's journey to Barkley this year, documented for all of us to watch (Gary has done the same). I guess I should say firstly that I don't think there are many parallels to be drawn between runners like them and me, but what I do get out of watching such videos is a chance to see different people's running form and think about my own, just like back in the day when I was an aspiring capoerista, we would watch film of other capoeristas to inspire our own moves.
There are worlds that divide elites from amateurs. Still, the imagination wishes to reach those distant shores, and it was while thinking of Jamil's narrative that I was reminded of Rumi's lines: "Dear soul, if you were not friends with the vast nothing inside, why would you always be casting your net into it, patiently? ... God has allowed a magical reversal to occur, so that you see the scorpion pit as an object of desire." Is not fortitude and endurance the training to have a realistic chance at something that without that training (either intense or over years - the latter being the more Taoist approach) would be impossible, unexpected?
It is so easy to live a life without doing the training. But it is so possible to do the training and gain the peace that comes with knowing, through practice, what is and isn't within one's reach (the wild card of the unexpected victories or failures notwithstanding: I am generalising here). What I mean is something like what Seneca writes about how philosophy "is not a random assignment but a regular appointment", for it is the activity that frees one from sickness, and when we are sick, we do all we can to get well. You can find that passage, with a great complementary passage by Epictetus that mentions exercise, here. The effort towards mastery can change our perspective on scorpions, though (as Epictetus warns) this does not mean we are invincible - in fact, that latter mind set he calls sickness.
Once upon a time when I was small, some family friends were what I guess we today call "adventurers". They knew how to collect emergency potable water from a bit of plastic and trash, what to do when bitten by snakes, where to look for water in deserts, etc. The things that scare most people were to them problems that have solutions. Here's to those trails that lead to "there"...

Brush: from the much-missed pugly pixel.
Some trails are hemmed in by boats.

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