One step at a time.

October 25, 2010 at 7:22 am 1 comment

I have never enjoyed running.  It’s boring.  It’s repetitive.  It’s hard.  Put me in a step class, where learning the choreography keeps my brain engaged and I don’t think about how much I’m working out.  Let me at the pool, where my natural buoyancy keeps me from drowning.  Just don’t make me run.

Lately, though, I’ve been running more and more, mainly because I want to do a mini-triathlon and running is one of the major components.  Actually, it’s not really running; my friend Abby calls it “slogging” – a slow jog.  Very, very slow, in my case.

I’ve been trying to hit the road (or, some days, the track at the Y) at least twice a week.  And even though I’ve got my MP3 blasting music in my ears, it’s still boring.  And repetitive.  And hard.

This weekend my little running group followed a path that took us on a bike trail.  By that time, I was alone; there were people both ahead and behind.  The trail is on the outskirts of town, in an area where the houses meet fields.  While the highway is plainly in sight, the lack of large trees immediately next to the trail and the prevalence of natural grasses make the path feel very open and secluded at the same time.

It also made me feel very small.  I had just hit our halfway point and had turned around to come back to the rendezvous spot.  By that time, I was walking, trying to catch my breath and give my knee a little rest.  The sky above me was more gray than blue, stretching infinitely above me.  The long grasses were blowing in the breeze.  And my destination – less than two miles away – seemed very, very far.  I felt like I was barely moving, as if I was walking in place.

I started thinking about the people who came to Kansas via covered wagon in the 1800’s.  Could you imagine what it must have been like for those pioneers to cross the plains?  It took them days and weeks to cross the prairie, with nothing but a wagon and some supplies and a gun.  They constantly had to guard against threats not only from Indians but also from other settlers.  The weather alone must have been daunting; day after day of being buffeted by the Kansas wind, with no houses or trees to act as a break.

No matter where I was on my trail, I could see cars and houses and SuperTarget.  This is what the pioneers saw on their trek:

Nothing but sky and grass and the occasional bush or tree, for as far as the eye could see.  It must have been so daunting, to come up over a hill hoping to see a town or just something, only to find that there were miles and miles still to go.  It must have been lonely, and monotonous.  It must have been boring.  And repetitive.  And hard.

Yet they persevered.  The people kept coming, settling in what would become Kansas.  They tamed the land and farmed it.  They could never tame the wind, but they could plant trees to slow it down.  They learned to appreciate the beauty of the plains, the majestic openness of the prairie.

They worked hard.  From sunup to sundown, they planted crops and built houses.  They raised animals and buried children.  It was not an easy life, but the pioneers somehow kept at it, plodding along each day.  And eventually, their efforts began to pay off.   They soon had towns and churches and schools.  They had social events to break up the monotony of daily life.

How did they do it?  By putting one foot in front of the other.   By taking it one day and even one mile at a time.  Some of them turned back, overwhelmed and defeated.  Yet some of them pushed on, determined to tame the wilderness.  There must have been times when it would have been so much easier to retreat, to go back to an established town, back to civilization.  But they stayed and built a place where all of us could live.

I still don’t enjoy running.  In the middle of a run, faced with more miles to go, it would be easier to turn back, overwhelmed and defeated.  Yet I must remember the mantra of the pioneer: one foot in front of the other.  They covered the entire state of Kansas that way.  I just have to get to SuperTarget and back.

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Entry filed under: Life in general.

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