March 3, 2014

Running with the Ghost. ~ Larissa Uredi

Photo: Jim Larson

I have a noisy brain.

As a means of combating my constant internal chatter, I began funneling my energy into physical activity. It wasn’t long before I was coerced into going for a run with a friend.

Now, two years later, to say that I am a runner almost makes me cringe. I don’t really identify with being a runner. Some days I can barely muster the confidence to say that I am athletic, but, the truth is, I am both. And I am proud of it. I have worked hard to get where I am and I know that I still have a long way to go.

After my most recent race (read: a tough but amazing slog through snow), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Thinking about how I started down this path of being a “runner”, thinking about all of the hours of training that I’ve put in (and how many I’ve missed), thinking about all of the misconceptions of myself that I’ve obliterated time and time again, and how I am still faced with doubt and fear and all of those other nasty things that creep up on us when we are pushing our boundaries and asking ourselves to become Better.

When I first started running I was a soggy, floppy mess. I had no concept of what my feet were doing in relation to my hips or my ankles or my hands.

Turns out, running is just like everything else. You have to learn how to do it if you’ve never done it before.

One of my favorite coaching figures, Eric Orton, says that “athleticism is awareness”. And while this seems obvious or even too simple to be true, it’s dead on.

The beautiful thing about Orton’s quote is that it pulls the idea of self-awareness back into the realm of “things normal people can achieve” and out of this place that can feel very esoteric and inaccessible. You don’t have to be a Yogi to understand self-awareness (though, I’ve never seen it hurt!). In large part, our media and our culture fails to remind us that all levels of athleticism (and life) are made up of small moments of self-awareness that are strung together to create a complete scene.

I went through a round of injuries before I knew any better which, as frustrating as they were, were also 100% necessary to teach me to listen to my body. They also provided me the time to do some research and to learn how to engage and train certain muscle groups.

Much like everyday life, it wasn’t until I was forced to sit still and listen to myself that I actually put the time and effort into doing so.

The simultaneous trouble and beauty with learning new things is that we are truly new  to them. We are open and vulnerable and completely incapable of the 10,000 foot view that comes with experience. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gained expertise and awareness in other facets of our life, it doesn’t mean that it will translate into this new experience.

This is where grace really comes into play.

We have to allow ourselves to be this new. There is no shame in being soggy and floppy and unaware, because how are we supposed to know any better? We’ve never done this before! The sooner we learn to accept this about ourselves—accept this newness and vulnerability—the sooner we can get out of our own way and banish some of the ghosts that follow us around.

So, the next time you step out to go for a run or hop on a bike or even just go for a walk—take a moment and become aware of yourself, as you stand, in the present moment.

You might just find some peace and quiet waiting for you.


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Editorial Assistant: Kristin Monk/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photos:  elephant archives


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