Monday, October 24, 2011


Back in the early '90's when I was living in Philadelphia, working at the country's oldest Quaker school, and writing my Masters' thesis on "Wilderness and the American Character" I was engrossed in the simple life. Since then, of course, I've had five jobs, lived in six houses, and had three kids. Along the way, things have gotten quite a bit more complex. Recently, however, my life has been simplified. And that is due, in part, to running.

It's cliche to say that running is the ultimate simple sport. All you need are shoes, shorts and the desire to get out there. And these days, you don't really even need shoes:)

Thing is, the cliche is true, running is a simple endeavor and, if given the proper place in one's life, it can help to simplify those other places in our lives that are becoming increasingly complex, complicated and, in some cases, downright unsustainable. For those of us who have chosen the complex path with kids, jobs, houses, cars, can be difficult, if not impossible, to carve out the time and space for simplicity. It takes effort and a choice to be present and in the moment.

I was reflecting recently on the last two years of my life -- two years that have been filled with transition and change. Through those two years, the one constant, at least until I was stripped to my core with a debilitating injury eight weeks ago, was my running. Now that I have begun to slowly crawl out of the injury hole and things are looking up, I am pausing to look back. The visceral memory of the complexity of the past two years lingers and what makes that reflection meaningful and purposeful is the acceptance of the growth that has taken place, growth that I did not know I needed.

In those moments of deep simplicity and silence I am reminded of that great Buddhist saying,

Don't ask why this is happening to me?

Rather, ask why is this happening for me?


Gretchen said...

Running is definitely a haven of simplicity. Sometimes the only thing that brings sanity in an otherwise hectic day.

Are you better able to reflect on your recent growth because you are again running? Just curious because that's what it sounds like, and I certainly find immersion in the motion of running to be the best time for reflection.

Thanks for this lovely post, and glad to hear the injury is healing.

Olga said...

Gretchen, I would answer to the question yes. I find it that I, personally, definitely reflect on life on the run. When injured and unable, it is almost like mind gets busy with mundane tasks yet still in terms of contemplating phylosophically (I hope I am spelling it right). I know of someone who has same feel for riding a bike, and running does little. I think it's not running as is, it is what it means to each of us.
Andy, get better, man! I know exactly how it feels, and I am not just saying it! PF sucks!

Christian said...

Nice post AJW. Even though I don't like to be injured and unable to run, I like the post injury time. When you can get out there again, slowly but steadily, see how precious and lucky you are to be able to run. Plus it gives you a mandatory break and time to think.

Fat and Slow said...

Love this post. Simplicity is _exactly_ what I crave from running. You don't need design documents, SOP's, or audits, you just lace 'em up and head out the door, with or without your shoes/ipod/garmin.

Question: Is there a sport that is simpler than running?