Doldrums

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One of my wise children said, “Runners are like farmers–they’re never happy with the weather.”

It’s almost true.

  • When the weather is hot, I complain about getting up early to run before the bugs and manure trucks awake.
  • When the weather is rainy, I complain about getting up early to run because it’s dark and my feet get wet.
  • When the weather is snowy, I complain about getting up early to run because it’s STILL dark, and I have to wear ten pounds of gear.
  • When the weather is perfect, I complain about getting up early to run.

I’m sensing a theme here.

Though I usually have something to complain about on any given day of the year, I’m finding that winter marathon training is extremely challenging.

The snow was okay in November–even quaint and lovely, but by January I was ready to pack up my Amphipod and move south. The snow has melted now, but I’ve been living in a wind tunnel for weeks–and it is trying my patience.

On a recent 18-mile run, I could lean my body to a 45 degree angle and the wind would keep me in position–even running DOWNHILL was hard. As much as I hated slipping on snow and ice the previous week, I would have traded it for the wind.

On a usual day, I get up at 4 or 5 am and run 8 or 10 miles. But lately, I’ve felt that the particular combination of elements has made running that early simply miserable, not to mention a little dangerous. I can run through snow, on ice, in rain or high winds, but to willingly combine those with the dark seems crazy–and I’m not an ultra-marathoner yet, otherwise it probably wouldn’t phase me.

I find myself longing for the doldrums so I CAN get up at 4am and run.

It's all about perspective.

When I lived in Alaska, I came to the conclusion that Alaskans have a special appreciation for spring. Winter is so cold and dark up there, when the temps get above freezing, people wear shorts outside.

Every little thing gives Alaskans hope: birdsong, a robin, two extra minutes of daylight, or seeing the top of your patio table emerge from the snowpack you thought was ground-level all winter. When the seat of your child’s swing is finally freed from its icy prison, you rejoice and kick the kid outside with a pair of rubber boots and some knit gloves.

The least little niblet of spring is savored.

Likewise, I think runners who train in the winter will enter spring with a new appreciation of the world. A little mud? Who cares? A  rain shower? No big deal–that’s why we have rain jackets.

At least it’s not icy.

At least the wind won’t make me feel like I’m lolling the wrong way on a moving sidewalk.

Right now I am both longing for and fighting the doldrums.

You may know that the word can simply mean a period of calm: horrible for sailors, great for runners. But it can also mean a depressed state of mind, and it is incredibly easy to let it swallow you up.

I looked up the word doldrums on the fount of all knowledge, WikiPedia, and “The term is derived from dold (an archaic term meaning stupid and -rum(s), a noun suffix found in such words as tantrum.”

I HAVE run in the wind, but I hate it so much, I’m having a ‘stupid tantrum’ about it–and it is something I need to guard against.

I can shake my fist in the air and yell, “Fine! I won’t run at all.” But the wind wouldn’t care. It would keep blowing branches off the trees and probably fling something at me in the process.

I trust that God has a reason for all this–I just can’t see it yet. My part is to just keep doing what I do (praying, reading scripture, staying active and eating a little chocolate) and trust that the patience I learn will refine me into something better.

I’ve gotten ‘creative’ by doing the elliptical in the basement (marginally better than running in high winds) and my sanity has been preserved by CrossFit, after which, I always feel better.

As things stand, I won’t be running a marathon on March 1st, as I had hoped, which takes away my motivation to do hard things like run in foul weather.

I find myself fighting against the doldrums.

I hope God gives me the strength to win.

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