RunHaiku Volume 2

When I started my daily RunHaiku rhythm last fall, then continued it through the cold and dark early mornings of winter, I thought, if I could tune my senses to wonder and attention in the bleakness of winter, how amazing would spring be?

Well, spring arrived.

As temperatures rose, I found myself obsessed with arrival of birds, leaves, and blossoms. The change was everywhere. Bare fields became head-high walls of corn. A collection of twigs and trunks became a lush forest bursting with flowers and berries.

Spring is a bundle of miracles unraveling all at once.

RunHaiku Volume 2 – Springtime Strides is now live! Check them out here. These poems represent my noticings over 80+ runs (and nearly 550 miles, you can see this whole thing is getting out of hand…) from Mar 23 – June 30.

Hope you enjoy.

Oh, if you’d like to join the RunHaiku revolution (that’s right, a revolution ;) ) submit your haiku here! I’m currently packaging up a collection of awesome submissions, and I’d love to include yours!

Really Winning

In one week I’ll be participating in my first marathon, and I’m planning on winning the race.

That’s right, winning the whole thing.

Make no mistake (barring some kind of freak Rookie-of-the-Year-style “injury”) there’s no chance of me crossing the finish line first. Not going to happen. Finishing will be accomplishment enough. But when it comes to running, as with most of life’s endeavours, “winning” can have many definitions.

Kilian Jornet has crossed the finish line first in countless ultra-marathon races around the globe, but this is what he has to say about real winning:

An ultra is not a competition. It is much more. When you finish a race having won it, it’s happens many times that you’re not satisfied. You’re happy, but that’s it. The next day you see people arriving at the square and you see they are crying with joy and happiness. Then you think, Look at them, man, they really won.

(Note, when he says “the next day you see people arriving…” you know both how long these ultras are, and how fast Kilian runs them!)

This advice, reminiscent of Scott Jurek’s, reminds us of the importance of not only running as fast as you can, but enjoying the experience.

On race day, I’ll be watching my pace and giving my whole effort to running, but I also hope to enjoy the day and the race experience with fellow runners and supporters. Hopefully at the finish line I’ll all be able to say I “really won”. And if you have a race or endeavour coming up, you “really win” as well!

Attempting the Impossible

For the past 3 months I’ve been preoccupied with preparations for my first marathon. This morning I completed what will be my longest run before the big day.

I get a variety of reactions when people find out I’m planning to torture myself by running 26.2 miles – not to mention the hundreds of training miles – on purpose, for enjoyment.

It is admittedly, a bit of a strange obsession. But for me, this process has been one of exploring what is possible.

When someone reacts with, “Oh I could never do that,” I have to laugh. Until recently, I would have said the same thing! Running 26.2 miles was an impossible feat best left to a breed of super-humans known as “marathoners”.

Yet, here I am, registration paid, betting on the expectation that, come race day, I will in fact be able to complete the distance as well.

I clearly remember the first time I ran 6 miles (roughly 10KM) while training for my first race of that distance in 2012. At the time, running for 10KM, without stopping, without seizing up and passing out, felt impossible. When I hit the 6 mile mark, I was forced to re-calibrate my expectations. The impossible 10KM was now possible!

The next year I signed up for a half marathon, but I didn’t actually believe I could run the required 13.1 miles until a couple weeks before race day, when I ran the full distance, just to make sure I could do it.

And now, here we are, 3 weeks away from race day of my first full marathon, where I will again attempt the impossible.

Here’s what I’ve realized as I’ve developed as a runner:

I’m capable of more than I think.

When we say, “I could never run that far,” it’s kind of the truth. The Couch-to-Marathon program isn’t an afternoon workshop. But when we consider what is possible or impossible, we often forget one key part of the equation: you.

You are not a static entity. Just because you can’t run a marathon now doesn’t mean that you could never run run one.

You are a variable in the equation, a living, changing, adapting, growing organism that is capable of more than you think.

Now, we all know that not every child who dreams of flying to the moon can be an astronaut. Genetics, opportunity, passion, and luck are all factors in people accomplishing their dreams. Not everything is possible, realistically, (even if you “just believe”).

But if you’re like me, I bet you often underestimate what you’re capable of.

Zen Pencils illustrates a great passage by British pianist James Rhode on this topic. He suggests that many dreams get discarded early because they look impossible, when in fact, just a small amount of dedication over time would see you realize the impossible.

You might not be a marathon runner or a concert pianist today. But have you considered what you could do if you devoted a small amount of time to daily practice?

It’s still not a guarantee that I will actually be capable of running 26.2 miles, 42.2 KM, come race day. But I’m starting to think that it’s possible. Here’s why:

For the past 3 months I’ve been running nearly every day. My own humble version of The Trial of Miles, or Miles of Trials (a term from the cult-classic Once a Runner). The work that’s necessary if you want to accomplish the impossible. Thanks to a great coach, and encouragement from family and fellow runners, I’ve stuck with it. An average of just an hour a day, rain or shine.

So while race day itself will be a big unknown, I’ve got a hunch that I’ll survive.

And if that’s possible, what else is possible with a bit of persistence over time?

RunHaiku: Call for Submissions

I recently launched RunHaiku.com, posting my first 100 haiku from my daily running/seeing habit (read more here).

Probably the most fun and unexpected result of the project so far is that friends have started writing their own RunHaiku (and WalkHaiku, and BikeHaiku) as a result! Love it!

This got me thinking: wouldn’t it be fun to create a volume of collective RunHaiku?

And that is what we’re going to do! Want to participate? Here’s the challenge (if you choose to accept it):

  1. Go outside. Move. Walk, run, bike, swim, crawl, camp, etc.
  2. Pay attention. Earbuds out, listen to your surroundings. Smell the fresh air. Watch the clouds. Feel the burning in your calves.
  3. Write a haiku about what you notice. The common rule with haiku is 3 lines, 17 syllables (5/7/5). But there’s a lot of nuance to “what is haiku”, but this is just a tool, let’s not get hung up on that.
  4. Head over to this form to submit your haiku.

The idea of RunHaiku isn’t to create beautiful poetry. This is a tool for paying attention. Don’t overthink it. It’s about the process, not the result.

Once we have a good compilation (100 or so would be wonderful), I’ll post them in a future volume on RunHaiku.com.

Sound like fun?

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Click here to submit your haiku.

RunHaiku Volume 1

So I’ve been doing this thing…

Every morning I wake up, throw on my running shoes (and as many layers of clothing necessary given the weather) and go for a run.

This is my chance to disconnect. I don’t bring my phone. No earbuds. Instead I listen. I connect with my own physical body through the motion of running, and to my physical environment with all of my senses.

The Rarámuri “running people”tribe of Mexico have a saying: “When you run on the earth, if you run with the earth, you can run forever.” I can’t run forever, but I like the idea of connecting with the earth. In our climate-controlled screen-centric existence, it’s easy to feel divorced from our planet, environment, and surroundings. I’ve noticed that if I go too long without picking my head up to look around, and feel the outdoor air on my skin, I start feeling a little off.

So when I run, I try to re-connect. I pay attention.

As a practice of paying attention, last fall I started recording the things I notice while I’m outside, in the form of haiku.

Roughly seventeen syllables, nearly every day.

You must understand, though, this isn’t the Colorado foothills I’m running in every day. It’s southern Manitoba. The past winter I was running before the sun came up against -30 windchill. Not what most people think of as poem-inspiring. On those days, writing haiku became a challenge. Could I notice something new? Could I see the same old trails differently than I did the day before? (Hint: there’s always something new to see.)

The Bush Farm Trail, one of my favourite go-to running routes.

Some people use photography as a tool for noticing the world. Others draw. Because I don’t like hassling with camera while I’m running, and don’t have much time to process after a run, I’ve found that chewing on a short poem and quickly jotting it down while I get ready for my day suits me well.

Fresh Track in the Snow

Now I’m excited to let you know that I’ve collected my first batch of haiku! The first 100 poems, written from Oct 15, 2017 through Mar 22, 2018. These are a record of my encounters with the fall and winter worlds from the trails and roads that I call home.

Read them at RunHaiku.com.

I’ll be adding to this collection and updating this site as this project continues. I hope you enjoy them, and that they inspire you to get outside, and to pay attention.

Thanks for reading.

Treasure

I found a treasure
Beside the trail
A whisper in the wind
An overlooked flower
Hidden in the grass

I snatched it by the whiskers
Wrapped it carefully
With my fingers
I’m racing home now
To plant it safely
In my garden

The First of March

I had forgotten
the scent of wet soil
or rather, the fact that
under all these layers of snow
there existed a thing called soil
at all

Until the first of March, when
under the unrelenting force
of the noon-day sun
all the memories
of dirt under fingernails
and the crunch of fresh carrots
came rushing back
on the wind

Eat (and Read) and Run

I first heard about ultrarunner Scott Jurek in Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, where he joined a small group of daring runners in a 50-mile race with the legendary Tarahumara in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico. When a friend mentioned that Scott himself had written a book, I had to check it out.

Eat & Run

In Eat & Run, Scott tells the story of his journey to becoming one of the greatest runners in the world. From his humble beginnings, running the snowmobile trails in northern Minnesota (which I could immdiately relate to), Scott went on to run (and win, repeatedly) some of the most grueling races on the planet, races of +100 miles in places like the mountains of California and Colorado, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley.

Along the way, Scott also learned about the importance of food as fuel and medicine for maintaining health. His journey lead him to adopt a vegan diet (and he shares some great recipes in the book).

Scott’s story taught me a lot about the importance of mental strength and discipline in running. He claims that anyone can run an ultra, but there is so much work that goes into training for ultrarunning. I also learned a lot about how all aspects of health and our being are connected. Running isn’t just a physical exercise, it requires spiritual, emotional, and mental strength as well.

Running is often used as a metaphor for life, and it often works. Recently I wrote about my quibbles with the “life is a marathon” idea, but what I learned from Scott is that actually, maybe I’d been thinking about running in the wrong way.

Life is not a race. Neither is an ultramarathon, not really, even though it looks like one. There is no finish line. We strive towards a goal, and whether we achieve it or not is important, but it’s not what’s most important. What matters is how we move towards that goal. What matters is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.

As I’ve set my sights on running my first marathon this year, this book provided timely inspiration for testing the limits of my body’s capabilities by running longer distances than I’ve ever thought possible. (If some crazy people out there are running 135 miles through the excruciating heat of the Death Valley, I should be able to handle a “mere marathon” Manitoba summer, right?) It also made me more aware of how I’m fueling my body, considering how the food I eat affects my overall health.

And Read

As I read Eat & Run, I noticed all the books Scott mentioned that contributed to journey. Reading obviously was an important part of his development as a runner and a person.

I started making a list of books Scott mentioned for further reading (not that he might endorse them per se, but they contributed in some way to his development), and thought I might as well include that list here.

Here’s a list of the books and major influencers he mentioned. (More were also included in the Footnotes of the book, but I didn’t record those.) Follow some of these rabbit trails, see what you can learn as well.

If you’re a runner (and a reader), check out Eat & Run to get excited about running! And I hear Scott’s got a new book coming out soon, so be on the lookout for that one as well.

Thanks, Scott, for sharing your story!

Thanks, Seth

Seth Godin is probably the reason I’m here (on this blog) today.

Over 10 years ago, a friend passed Seth’s blog along. I landed in the middle of his slow-drip project and enjoyed the steady, patient sharing of wisdom and observation.

Seth changed how I thought about communication, media, and spreading ideas. But more importantly, he helped changed my posture, demonstrating the importance of generosity, trying things that might not work, poking the box, leaning into fear, and committing to the slow drip.

He launched a new project yesterday, a podcast. As I started listening, the voice was familiar. Steady, challenging, curious, inspiring. Check it out.

Thanks, Seth.

Missing an Eclipse

This morning there was an eclipse.

And I missed it. (Which news stories and Instagram posts were kind enough to inform me.)

This world is a wonderful place, isn’t it? (Boom de yada, boom de yada…). Even this sterile winter day was filled with, the deep blue glow of the pre-dawn snow, a lunar eclipse, a soft but expansive sunrise, sun dogs at noon.

Not to mention the wonder of kids growing up and discovering new things, and each of us grown ups becoming different version of our selves day by day.

Amazing things are happening all around us, right under our noses, all the time. Quite overwhelming, if you think about it. We might easily echo Jayber Crow’s lament:

“Often I fear that I am not paying enough attention.”

Most of these wonders, like the lunar eclipse in my case, happen unnoticed. They’re free to enjoy, but won’t complain if they come and go unannounced.

All the more reason to pay attention. Look up at the sky. Take a moment (15 seconds, to be precise) to soak it in, before this moment passes quietly on to the next.