From The Hard Run: Painful Lessons from a Running Granny
My rural running routes present a lot of variety. At first glance one might think I only have farmers’ fields to view while logging miles. However, within a four mile grid I can encounter a number of crops, both low growing and taller than an elephant, paved roads and dirt ditch banks, winding canals and a rushing river, steep inclines and rolling hills, and livestock and wildlife including horses, pigs, egrets, snakes, blue herons, and the occasional white pelican. I could go on about the draft horses, cattle, geese, and skunks, but that is a discussion for another time. It is the hills that I wish to expound upon here.
In the previous section (When Pain Means DON’T STOP!) we looked at the way purposefully conquering a hill can prepare one for smaller challenges that occur unexpectedly. This essay, however, examines the ways that rolling hills offer a rest to allow a runner to recover and extend his workout. When I encounter a short steep hill, I remind myself that it will be difficult, but only for a short time. Most often, a short steep uphill is followed by an immediate and equal downhill. This knowledge helps me tackle the challenge. Not only do I know that the incline will not last for long, but that my lungs will be rewarded with a rest as I allow gravity to work in my favor on the approaching downhill length. That short reprieve is often enough to strengthen my resolve to tackle the next rolling hill. It is definitely helpful to my physical ability to take on another hill.
What did I learn from the Rolling Hills Lesson?
During times of adversity, it is important to observe the joyful moments for they will help us through our trials. If we look for them we can find those moments.
Several years ago I watched a friend undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma. She always put on a brave face when she was in the company of coworkers and friends. After losing her hair, she began wearing a wig in public and a turban at home. On one occasion she shared something she found comical. All of the hair on her head was gone except for a tiny tuft about a quarter inch in diameter right in the back of her head. She laughed and commented that she felt like one of those fellows that shaves his head, but leaves a braid in the back. This experience broke the ice for her acquaintances to be able to discuss with her some of the concerns and discomforts she was enduring.
My home in the Treasure Valley of Southwest Idaho is a beautiful place. We have some of the most colorful sunsets ever witnessed and they occur regularly. Unfortunately, we have another phenomenon that also happens regularly. Many winters the valley experiences a weather inversion. These inversions occur when cold air is trapped below warmer air. They can last for weeks on end. No matter how blue the skies or how warm the temperatures are above the inversion the cold air remains in the valley creating a smog-like atmosphere that the sun does not burn through. For many, the weeks on end of cold gloomy weather wreak havoc on emotional health and even present physical challenges for those with respiratory concerns. There are, however, some moments of reprieve if one takes notice.
Hoar frost is a heavy buildup of ice or frost crystals that seem to grow daily upon trees, shrubs, fences, and grass during a weather inversion. Although this hoar frost is a result of adverse conditions in the atmosphere, it paints a beautiful white landscape. The lack of air movement during the inversion allows these frost crystals to stay in place until they become so heavy they begin to fall to the ground in a mock snowstorm.
A change in the weather is the only hope of moving an inversion out of the valley. Thus, the wind that is so often a springtime nemesis becomes a welcome guest. Snow and rain in all their wetness and inconvenience are also gratefully received as they clear the air and promise blue skies upon their departure.
A drive upward and outward of the valley can give the sufferer hope as she reacquaints herself with sunshine and blue skies. When viewing an inversion from above, it appears fluffy and bright white, inviting enough for the onlooker to imagine diving into a sea of fresh cloudy foam. Winter inversions are one reason I snow ski.
When I was in the fourth grade the only grandparent I had really known, my Grandma Nelson, passed away. I remember going to her funeral services and crying most of the day. It was my first experience with the death of a loved one. I also remember being a bit disturbed that not every member of my extended family was shedding buckets full of tears. How could they be so happy at a time like this? I have since learned that death is inevitable. It is, in fact, a very critical part of our eternal journey. I have also learned that while we might miss our loved ones and mourn their passing, it is not disrespectful, unkind, nor unhealthy to remember them with joy and laughter. These occasions also present opportunities to reconnect with loved ones that may live far away. During these times of mourning sharing the company of those we love and finding pleasure in the moment will help get one through the sadness. Healing can begin.
Do not suppose that a mournful heart and a downtrodden disposition is the only way to get through life’s trials. Look for happiness and humor along the way. Those things will bring a reprieve from the physical and mental exertion and will help bring you through challenges.
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