Thursday, April 10, 2014

For Sara!

Today's run is dedicated to Sara Taylor. Ty's widow. Her husband was an inspiration to me and now she's inspired me to run and write. I wanted to do a special run for her and I think today's run was just that.

"There are times when fear is good.
It must keep its watchful place at
the heart's controls."

What is it about fear? We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time avoiding it, talking about it, hiding it and overcoming it.

Over the weekend, I was in Bangkok. The four miler I ran took me through Lumphini Park, the home of anti-Thai government protestors. As I was nearing the park, I wasn't sure what to expect and fear started creeping in. What would happen in the park? Would people see me as an outsider and resent my presence? Would I even make it into the park? I had read about a running group that switched their weekend runs to another park. Was it because they were afraid to be in the park? It turned out fine, pleasant, in fact. In that case my fear was unwarranted and I felt silly. I was also scheduled for a 12 miler during my stay in Thailand. I mapped it out on MapMyRun and obsessed over it for at least three days. I planned it, visualized the turns, reviewed the map, counted lefts and rights, counted bridges, memorized landmarks and proceeded to avoid the run. The first day, I had a six am wake-up call, answered it, got up and didn't run. Why? I was afraid. Afraid I'd miss a turn, afraid I'd get lost, afraid I'd be lonely, etc., etc.  The next day, I put out an appeal for donations and reset for the next day. Again, I woke up early. I got dressed in my running clothes. I was ready to go, but something was keeping me back. I couldn't get past the fear of the unknown

I was bummed that I couldn't summon the courage to run, but resigned myself to the fact that it was okay. There are bumps in the road. Like Aeschylus says in the quotation above, sometimes fear is warranted. Maybe I saved myself from something terrible. Or maybe I just wimped out. When I got back to Delhi, I checked my email and found out that Sara had donated. I was devastated. I felt like I had let her down big time by not running what might have been a special Bangkok run, with lots to do and see.

Then I proceeded to not run for two more days because the boy child was not cooperating. Sleep, it seems was not important to him.

Today, I got back on the road, hoping that something interesting would happen. Today is election day in Delhi, so I planned a run that would take me past the current Prime Minister's house and the Presidential Palace. A friend had made a similar run the day before and said she ran past hundreds of police, keeping the peace. I saw the parallel to my Lumphini Park run and thought it might provide interesting fodder for today's run.

The run started innocently enough. About two minutes into the run I watched two guys with a stick scaring a monkey out of a tree, trying to send him back across the street into the Ridge. They often come and terrorize homes near the Ridge, so this seemed "normal" to me as I continued my run. A right-hand turn at the Salt March statue and I thought I'd be entering the martial law described to me the day before. Not a single police officer was in sight. I turned toward the Presidential Palace and after another right-hand turn - FEAR. Real fear set in. Monkeys were stretched across the entire street. On  a good day, I can summon up enough courage to run past monkeys, but today something was different. As I tried to "tsk-tsk" enough monkeys out of the way to create a channel to run through, I was four or five monkeys deep. I had drifted from the curb to the middle of the street with monkeys on both sides. That's when the big, ugly dude dead center turned to me, hissed and bared his fangs. 

I stopped running. I took a breath. I remembered that alpha animals sense fear and attack weakness. I tried to stay calm. I tried to be tough. Then he started moving toward me. Then two of his big, ugly friends joined him. I walked backwards faster. I almost tripped over their buddy, who had came up on my left-hand blindspot. I tried to go alpha with a loud yell.

It worked. A little. I gained enough space to at least turn around, abandon my route and recoup. Just then, a guy came up on a motorcycle, turned it off in the middle of the street and took a look at the monkeys. After planning his route, he turned his bike back on. He looked at me and I asked in my best pantomime if he would take me through. He said, "Of course." I hopped on and we made it through.

Wimpy? Maybe, but in this case I think Aeschylus hit it right on the head. There are times to conquer your fears and other times when you must let your fear guide you safely through a troop of monkeys.

So, what is it about fear? How can we learn to trust it when we need to, but not dissuade us from growing? Maybe there's a lesson to be learned in this run. Perhaps we can mitigate our fear of fear by taking it one step at a time, like training for a marathon, by asking for help and by putting faith in the hope that the outcome will leave us better than before.

ps. After The Monkeys I saw a Navy officer polishing a brass cannon and a guy on a bicycle in a t-shirt and track pants. With an assault rifle. Incredible India!

pps. If you zoom in on the map below, you can see the moment of The Monkeys on Dalhousie Road just after Mile 2. Look for the backtrack!

This run belongs to Sara! Thanks for everything.

I'm dedicating runs to raise money for a campship in memory of our friend Ty Taylor at YMCA Camp Miller. Click here or here to donate. Please make sure you choose the Ty Taylor Campship option. And please let me know if you've made a donation so I can thank you!

Distance - 5.13 miles
Time - 39:37
Soundtrack - Beastie Boys, Root Down EP and Some Old Bullshit

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