What the Run that Almost Wasn’t Taught Me

Yesterday was one of those surprisingly perfect runs. And I will admit – I almost didn’t go.

It started with I was too tired. I then rationed that somehow the hour and a half I had was not enough for a 30 minute run. Then it started snowing, and I didn’t have a headband, but at the same time I also sort of wanted to go even more. Then I noticed it was abnormally dark for 4PM. And my headphones were missing an ear bud.

I overcame all of this, before I realized that I had forgotten my Garmin on the kitchen counter.

the horror

And I didn’t have a pocket for my phone. At which point, as sad as it sounds, I thought, “ugh, is it even worth running?”

Yeah.

I know.

I am ashamed.

#GenYproblems

If I couldn’t take my technology I was taking my toys home. I apparently would rather be inactive than be active without digital proof of said activity. What did they do 30 years ago before Garmin watches existed?

They ran.

They laced up their shoes and they ran.

They used maps to track distance, maybe a stopwatch. An actual stopwatch. Not an app.

What did they listen to before iPods?

Their footsteps.

The sound of their feet pounding the pavement or dirt. The sound of their breath moving in and out of their lungs.

In that moment, with no music, no Garmin, and no headband; with snow and darkness falling, I actually turned around and went back inside.

If you think this is an exaggeration, at Run Club Sunday morning it was -24C, there was a guy in shorts. I meanwhile, had every article of dry-fit I own on.

If you think this is an exaggeration, at Run Club Sunday morning it was -24C, there was a guy in shorts. I meanwhile, had every article of dry-fit I own on.

And I hung my head in shame.

I stood in the hallway, debating what to do. It was cold. I had work to do. But the I thought,  I am already in my dry-fit. I have lugged my bag around campus. I have run downtown many times, I knew routes approximate distances.

There were a million reasons not to go.

I found the reason to go.

For the first time in a long time, possibly ever, I just ran.

I admit, I didn’t go completely tech free. I had my iPod strapped to my arm to track time, because I’m sort of obsessive about knowing that kind of stuff. I am also obsessive about finishing on either an even or half kilometer. I ran without my Garmin or headphones. I just ran.

And in that 29 and a half minutes, I reconnected with why I run. Why I’ve walked and ran half-marathons. I reconnected with the essential reasons, the beauty of my body.

I intimately connected to my breathing. I felt my chest expanding and falling with each breath and heard the breathing from within. The world, at the moment the downtown core during rush hour, was a whisper against the sound of my breathing. It was beautiful to listen to the rhythm of my feet on the pavement. Perhaps the darkness made me even more acutely aware, but the feeling of my muscles moving in my legs was never clearer to me.

It was an amazing run, a beautiful feeling of connection, and it made me realize how disconnected I have been the last few weeks. It has been crazy, and I have given up a lot of sleep as we move into the final part of the semester. My body has tried to warn me to slow down, eventually Monday I came home and went into a mini-coma and allowed my body the rest it needed. But in that moment, listening to my body and turning my entire existence inward, I had a moment of pure clarity about my world. My inner thoughts smoothed out and all that mattered was that moment.

I’m not saying just ignore things and only live in the moment, to a degree a dash of planning is required. But in that moment I realized what use is it living entirely in the future? At some point you have to slow down and breathe. You can think about the past, and you can plan for the future, but don’t forget about the present. Don’t forget to live.

Also, this video is really cool – talks about how you’re much more open when you’re running. I know I am, apparently running has the same effect on our inhibitions as drinking according to science. Are you really open when you run? Do you even like to talk when running? Do you run with people at all or are you the lone wolf type? Let me know in the comments down below!

Also, good point:

Decisions, Villages, and People Watching

This is legit a thing. They have a website.

I finally caved. I had to watch Grey’s Anatomy. I put off the premiere for almost a week. Afraid that once again, it would take over my life. And it sort of has. At least it’s only available once a week. It could be available on Netflix. My productivity levels would be D.O.A. About halfway through the episode, an incredible moment happened:

“We’re all going to die, we don’t get much say over how or when, but we do get to decide how we live. So do it. Decide. Is this the life you want to live? Is this the person you want to love?

Is the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More compassionate?

Decide.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

And decide.

The waiting can kill you. You make a decision and then the world has to turn. The consequences unfold, out of your hands. There’s only one thing that seems clear in those quiet moments while you wait, whatever you chose was wrong.”

I will not spoil it by telling you who said that, why they said it, or if someone died just in case some of you have yet to make friends with your PVR since the episode aired. But this thought struck me deeply.

It sounds horribly morbid, thinking about the fact that we are all going to die. But so is the fact that I took a course on “Death and Dying” last semester. But it’s a fact of life. Death is a fact of life. That just sounds oxymoronic.

So if generally we don’t get to choose when we die. And all we can do is choose how to live. Then why do we spend it worrying about what can go wrong. I spent the day today worrying about all the things I had to do, rather than just starting to do things.

Nope, I laid staring at the ceiling last night, tossed and turned my way through the early morning, and then waffled between plans for date night this week trying to maximize work time. And then I got on the bus to come home and my iPod shuffled to Louis Armstrong. And instantly the world calmed down. And I became a productive… ok you caught me. I had a nap when I got home, but then I was productive. And then got distracted mowing my lawn and weeding. I mean studying ecology and environmental studies?

In my defense, I finished everything anyways.

I will eventually figure out a way to spin off watching Grey’s as an educational activity. Studying anatomy and medicine in case I change my mind on psychology? Sounds good.

Before it seems like I am going to come full circle back to my post two weeks ago about living your life and forgetting about the “shoulds” and “what ifs,” I swear I’m not. What stood out for me, wasn’t exactly living life to the fullest and loving people to the max. It was the moment where Weber starts to talk about decisions and being the best you can be, and asks a lot of questions about if this is the you you want to be, if you could be kinder and more compassionate. Which really resonates with me for several reasons

1) I often suck at making decisions. For the exact reasons this quote points out – I don’t want to choose wrong. Yet here I am, poised to make some of the biggest decisions of my life. Decisions that will decide where I am going to be for the next 6 or more years and where I will end up. Decisions that will be largely out of my hands. I have chosen a program that is more competitive than med school. So the odds of me getting in aren’t really in my favour. The odds of me getting to choose between multiple schools even slimmer. It’s going to be a bumpy ride the next six months, but I am sure by the end of it some decisions will have been made.
2) I am a people watcher. I LOVE riding the bus, because there are so many interesting people to watch. Back when I was driving to Credit Valley Hospital every day, I used to love driving up the 401 and watching the planes taking off and landing – imagining where the passengers were going or coming from and why? Were they happy or sad to go? Happy to be back? Do they have a family waiting to pick them up? Or is their family with them on the plane? Or is there going to be a taxi driver taking them to a random hotel?
I do the same thing on the bus. I love to watch and wonder. It’s more entertaining when you can actually see the people, especially when they’re not aware you’re watching. Oh God. That sounded so creepy. I swear I am not some sort of crazed window peeper. I just mean when people don’t know they’re being watched you can see more of the real them. Or you can see that they have retained the adolescent spotlight effect and are clearly always posing.
Problem is that I’m not always kind in my thoughts. A lot of it comes from what I’m going to pass off as being a female in a society that values appearance above all else. Which is sort of it. It’s also sort of on me though. I won’t tell you some of the thoughts, but don’t even try to tell me that you never have ill thoughts of random strangers on the basis of appearance or current behaviour. I will psych student you into the truth. I know someone who is trained in hypnosis and has access to a polygraph machine. I know.
Whenever I catch the thoughts I try to chastise myself. Tell myself I need to be nicer. After all, for all I know, someone is judging me the same way. And I would hate to be judged on my sweatpants days. Or the day last week I got on a bus still in my dry-fit. Or the days I forgot to put on make-up and was so tired I looked like death warmed over. And it’s not like I sit around thinking nasty things about everyone, but I really shouldn’t be thinking those nasty things at all. So can I be kinder? Yeah. I’ll just be the only one that knows.

3) I am generally content with who I am. I know I am strong because it took a hell of a lot of strength to make it through some of the stuff I made it through. And yet hearing that – I thought can I be stronger? My Achilles tendon and IT band certainly think so. Really, this just reminded me that I need to remember that I actually am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. In the moments where I am panicking, thinking I can’t handle something – I need to remember what I have done so far. I know I’ll be happy with the person I am working towards being, but am I happy with who I am? I don’t hate myself. It just never occurred to me to think about whether or not the me I am today is the person I want to be right now. I am so used to thinking in the future. So it kind of reminded me to think of both the future and my present. Being miserable with who I am now for the sake of who I want to be just doesn’t make sense.

4) I come from a “village.” Which isn’t exactly a village, but it still has the small town atmosphere. You know – people say hello to each other when they pass on the streets, you’re not afraid to leave the door unlocked while you go for a 3 hour hike up the hill, and neighbours will ask each other for a cup of milk or an egg and that’s totally cool.

And yeah, I might be looking with my retrospective rose coloured glasses. Or maybe this sort of thing only applies to the smaller area just outside Barrie that I come from. But here in Ottawa, I would never leave my front door unlocked even if I’m only going out for a 20 minute run. When people walk by my house while I’m outside, I avert my gaze, out for a walk I don’t say hi to people, and when my parents are here and say hello to people I look at them like they’re crazy.

And I ask myself – is this the me I want to be? I still say thank you to the bus driver every time I get off and good [insert time of day here] every time I get on. I hold doors open for people, while most people seem to be in too big of a rush. But I am losing my soft spot for homeless people, I am afraid to say hello to random people, and I seem to be morphing into some hardened city slicker. Is that who I want to be? Or would I rather be the slightly quirky city person, that occasionally stands out like a sore thumb, but at least still has the values and behaviours I was raised to have?

 

So. I need to learn to make a decision, and be cool with someone else making the decision. I need to edit my thoughts and be nicer. I need to think about me now and be happy with that before I think about future me. And I need to hold onto that trusting and caring part of me that was born and bred in the village. Even if it means being known as the girl who sometimes says strange things. Like “up shit creek without a paddle.” Someone please tell me that’s not a village saying.

Please.

This is legit a thing. They have a website.

This is legit a thing. Apparently this store is somewhere in England.

Where you can buy this.  Legit.

There’s even a website. Where you can buy this.
Legit.

Getting Lost and Getting #RAD

Climbing this tree really was crazy... but no this is not THE crazy tree

Ladies and Gents, the countdown is on.

Five days from now I will be running my first half-marathon. I am terrified and excited. A common theme thus far in fourth year.

For those of you wondering how the 70’s time warp went Sunday:

We went in 2013...

We went in 2013…

...came out 1973.

…came out 1973.

It was totally… #RAD?… Is it cheating to use their own advertising hashtag to describe the experience? Because it was awesome. It ended up only being about four and a half kilometers including my running back occasionally to hustle the not-so-fit-gym-rat along. Hardly a distance to brag about. But it still held the magic of the pre-race excitement. The thrill of the countdown. The neat line of port-a-potties. The “hype crowd” as I call them – a.k.a. the event team in charge of building the energy. The congestion at the start line that is perhaps the only part of races I hate. It was exciting. My boyfriend laughed at me wiggling with joy, but we talked about that last week.

Everything I love and hate about races, captured in one neat photo... and one photobomb...

Everything I love and hate about races, captured in one neat photo… and one photobomb…

He wasn’t laughing for long as we took off running, but he was a champ. Even if he didn’t roll through the last colour station. I figured I would just throw myself in 120% into the experience of the event. Which is also why I look like I came out from the 70’s and he looks like he barely could pass for late 80’s.

I must admit though that this decision seemed less intelligent when I got back to my car and realized I was covered in coloured cornstarch from my hair to my toes. Which while awesome, wasn’t really what I had in mind for my upholstery.

It was a busy weekend though, after coming back for a quick shower, it was off to the apple orchard. Which can you believe I have lived in the heart of farm and cottage country my entire life and never gone apple picking?! Crazy I know.

We took at trip over to Mountain Orchards, so I could show him what a REAL village looked like. You know one of those mostly dirt road places, where a 3 acre lot is considered small, and everyone shops at the same grocery store because it is the ONLY grocery store, but that can sometimes surprise you and turn out to have THE BEST restaurants? (Small aside – if you ever find yourself in the Port Severn Area, make a trip over to The Dam Grill, absolutely amazing food, and great service, but don’t take my word for it!). I’m hoping that now that he’s seen a real village he’ll stop telling me I live in a village. Not likely but a girl can dream.

With school starting back up, readings piling up, and the demands of daily living knocking at my door, it has gotten stressful fast. So it was really nice to literally get away from it all and just enjoy family.

Climbing this tree really was crazy... but no this is not THE crazy tree

Climbing this tree really was crazy… but no this is not THE crazy tree

Fortunately for me my darling brother has a strong arm but not the greatest aim...

Fortunately for me my darling brother has a strong arm but not the greatest aim…

Even if that family lures you into climbing a tree so they can pelt apples at you when you get stuck. I wish I was kidding. But my family’s a little crazy and it was all in good fun. So after loading up the wagon with apples and our bellies with apple cider donuts, Aaraf and I loaded the car up to head back to Ottawa. Only problem? I had nearly killed my phone taking so many pictures, and I was on my last bit of data for the month after being a little too liberal with my browsing on the bus this week. And the city slicker’s phone apparently rejects the villages as much as he does, because he had no service. Looks like all Roger’s clever ads about having faster and more reliable service are only city applicable.

At this point we were in a predicament of sorts – how on earth do we get home? My brother had gotten us lost going there (but thankfully his “manly sense of direction” got us there anyways) and I didn’t want to fully retrace our original route. I fortunately inherited my father’s sense of direction, (an upgraded version, double thankfulness) so while Aaraf attempted to get a data connection, I started to drive. And miracle of miracles my spatial memory and ability to orient myself got us home without any mishaps.

But driving home a thought struck me – what did we do before GPS?

Of course I remember using the actual GPS rather than my superphone, but I could barely remember what came before that. After half a second I remembered that I used to look up directions on my laptop and print them off before leaving, but as Aaraf pointed out – that really didn’t help you if you got lost. When I really thought about it, the internet has really only been around since the mid 90’s (Yes, before someone goes all Sheldon Cooper on me, I know it was actually invented technically in 1958, but the World Wide Web as we know it was not minted until 1993). I had to think long and hard, but then I vaguely remembered as a kid, my dad tracing lines on huge maps to determine the route. Now if I want to know how to get somewhere I simply ask Google:

“Google, directions home” to which she (Google clearly thought through their gender stereotypes on this one) replies, “Getting directions” and pulls up navigation. I can change the mode of transportation, and plan out bus trips according to when I want to leave, when I want to get there, or when the last time I CAN go there is.

In my everyday life my technology has become my best friend.

Before I go to bed: “Google, set alarm for 8am.”

When I wake up: I check my notifications, and then “Google, What is the weather?” Never mind just sticking my head out the window.

If I am driving: “Google, text my boyfriend – I am on my way!”

If I am worried I will forget something: “Google remind me to buy flowers when I get to Loblaws” or “Remind me to water the plants every morning”

If I don’t know the answer to something: “Google, what is snow?” (If you own an Android device with Google Now, ask it that, it’s worth the laugh)

And it’s not just my addiction to Google. I almost compulsively check my social media and email, half the time without even realizing I’m doing it. It is a habit. The very definition of automaticity.

I carry my iPod everywhere, I don’t really like running without it, and I have heard of people leaving the gym once they realized they didn’t have their music player.

I have a Garmin watch that I wear when I go for a run. Not having it pretty much ruins my run. I can’t keep a steady pace, and though I have a phone app to track my mileage in the event of a Garmin failure, I spend half the run angry that I don’t have my Garmin. Legit, I left my charger cable in Barrie after my last visit. When my Garmin was almost dead and I realized I didn’t have my charger, I called my father begging him to please ship it express post the next day. I still had to wait until Monday since it was shipped out Friday. But my day was made when the cable came in Monday morning and I plugged it in. This is the sad point my life is at right now.

I mourn my technology when it dies.

And the funny thing is that I was born before most of this was out, or at least before it became so advanced and widespread. I remember at 2 years old, having figured out MDOS was a remarkable accomplishment. That was the most advanced thing we owned in the house. We had one computer that was hardly used, and it wasn’t until I was in Grade 4 that I started using computers for homework. If you wanted to pay a bill you went to the bank. We drew directions on a map and set alarm clocks using our hands, trying to push and hold one button while clicking another, this was serious effort by today’s standards.

And yet, by my grandparents’ standards this was easy. They used the wind up clocks. You know, the retro ones we use now for decoration? And I will never forget the time I was playing at my friend Kellen’s house and like most kids, I didn’t want to go home for dinner, so his parents said I could stay but I had to ask my parents first. Technology was enough of a thing that it apparently wasn’t worth running across the court, calling was more sensible (yeah I can’t explain my laziness). And I sat down in front of their rotary phone and had no idea what to do with it. So I ran anyways. When I got to my home and asked, very out of breath, if I could stay at Kellen’s for dinner, my parents gave me a quizzical look and said of course, but asked why I didn’t just call? At which point I explained that their phone “didn’t work.” I have since figured out rotary phones, though morse code, and telegrams will always be a mystery to me.

I take a lot for granted in this massively advancing era of technology, I honestly barely remember a time before many of the technologies that I use on a daily basis. A lot of them aren’t even that old, most of them invented in my lifetime, or at least made commonplace during my lifetime, but I still just act like they’ve always been around.

Studying for the GRE this summer I stumbled across a sample question for the Analyze an Issue task, that argued that the increase in technology is making us dumber. Yes it was more eloquently stated, but you get the point. And I can see both sides, there are many things, I thankfully have learned, but that my friends never learned how to do. I can see how we may lose the ability to think as we pass off the torch to our technology. I prefer to think of it as we are freeing up our minds for more important things, no longer wasting our time with such mundane things as setting an alarm by hand. And in truth, technology has extended our lifespan, allowed for improved medicine, expedited social communications to an instantaneous level, and created a knowledge explosion with a wealth of information at our finger tips. Anything you could possibly want to know these days is on the internet. When writing papers I don’t have to go to the library (though I had a first year English professor that insisted we source at least 3 actual books), I do the research from home, able to instantly access pretty much any article I want, on any topic imaginable.

We also talked in my family psychology class about the idea of technology making our lives easier though and came to the conclusion that, yes it makes the work easier, but it also makes more work. There are probably a lot more chores that we do now, a) because we have the time to, b) because cleanliness standards have risen, and c) the technology creates work due to the maintenance it requires.

My grandparents grumble about the technology, occasionally calling me to tell me their computer isn’t working because they didn’t push the power button. They complain about my cell phone, and see no point in my tablets. My mom has me set up her phone and frequently tells me that I have to do her iPod for her. So maybe we are a generation that is missing out on some basic skills, but arguably with all this advancement, so is the last generation. Technology has created a brand new skill set for today’s youth to master. I will admit that since social media has taken off language has really gone for a nose dive, but you could argue it’s been declining since the 1400’s, or perhaps it peaked somewhere during the last generation, as I am sure each generation argues.

While Google can answer most of my questions, she still refuses to tell me whether or not I am clinically addicted to my technology. And when I asked her which generation was the best, I got this:

Pokémon. That's what matters in life folks.

Pokémon. That’s what matters in life folks.

Apparently that’s what matters in life. Though I got a slightly more positive answer when I asked it what mattered in life. Though several quote pages really wasn’t what I was looking for.

So tell me – am I the only one or do you have a gadget you can’t live without? Can you imagine a time without the internet? Does that give you the same uneasy feeling I get?

Now it’s off to ask Google what to do with the plethora of apples I forgot would be a by-product of going to an apple orchard.