Words by Jeggi Elinzano (@paavozatopek)
Illustration by Swathi Ghanta (@swafflesnyc)
While preparing for the Lehigh Valley Marathon in 2013, I was running in Bowdoin Park–a park in Wappingers Falls, New York in Dutchess County, home of the Nike Cross Nationals New York and Northeast Regionals, and most notably home to one of the grittiest and most challenging 5 km cross country courses on the East Coast. We were doing 3 times the 5k course, a volume workout for the marathon that in theory is meant to teach the body how to maintain a percentage faster than race pace, and ultimately marathon race pace, under constantly degrading body conditions amidst the effort and turmoil of running a tough course really hard.
During the final of the three reps, while the group I was training with pulled further and further away and the inherent melancholy of falling behind started to set in, we began our descent out of the woods that marked the final section of the course, around 1.5 miles in length or so.
I remember looking down at the path in the tall grass for walking, running, living, and racing, and really pushed to jam down the hill.
As I came off the bottom of the hill, the powerful light of a late afternoon sun setting over the Hudson River came through the trees shading a small path leading to the final mile.
Amidst the pain, I found clarity.
There’s this feeling you get when the right song finds its way into your speakers.
The right song, at the right time.
You find the same kind of clarity.
For better or worse, if running can act as a microcosm of one’s life and one’s burdens inside and outside of running are a vital component in how the narrative of the run goes–paying the rent, the deadlines at work, that slow 5k race, the bad workout, the trials and tribulations of relationships in the big city–sometimes you need the right song, at the right time.
You see, when that happens the mind clears and you just flow. In that moment, you’re given whatever vibes you need to get through the rest of the day; the rest of the run.
If it were a record, you’d close your eyes and fall into the song.
If it’s the light of the setting sun bouncing off the Hudson River, you clear your mind and the body, breath, arms, and legs find a rhythm.
You could probably liken it to the oft discussed clearing of the mind that elite athletes talk about when they’re amidst a performance in competition.
I can’t even note if my pace dropped any considerable amount since any attention that could’ve been directed to the watch was redirected to the rhythm, the music, the right song, at the right time.
A dear friend of mine just finished the Berlin Marathon 30 minutes faster than the last time he ran 26.2 miles in New York City.
Over a cup of coffee today, a few hours after he flew back to the city from Europe, we inevitably geeked out over his splits.
They were all over the place with a series of incredibly fast splits followed by some unusually slow ones.
Yet, he ran faster.
He paused after I trolled him a bit about his splits and said,”I just ran.”
“I shut my mind off and let the body do it’s thing.”