Monday, April 12, 2010

Outside - What a Place!

Following Orcas in February I slowed things down a little. I eased off the distance and my runs became more about getting into nature and being with friends. These are the best runs. You have the trees all around, dirt and mud under foot, some fresh and crisp air, great conversations, and the carrot on the stick...a post-run java.

In early March I pulled up the icalendar and started poking in Coach Phil's spring workouts. It was exciting, and still is, to see the workouts for the week and check'em off as they're done. Three or four times a week I get out and just do as I'm told, while hoping I'm getting faster and this tuned regimen is working. Several of my key workouts certainly look better already, but a few races will tell the true tale.

Anyway, running recently has become about the workout, and I love that, but this past weekend reminded me again of those less structured days following Orcas. In particular, this past Sunday on which I took a nice easy walk up to the first summit of the Stawamus Chief. It was just me and my round-bellied Lara. The sun was beating down, while a cold Squamish wind forced us to keep moving, and the smell of the just was. I think sometimes I lose sight of why I'm really out there. It's not only to stay fit and be my best, it's that innate draw toward nature, the one I remember so well from my childhood where I explored tree stands, creek beds, and caves all day long. I really did come home when the street lights came on. And when they went off again in the morning I was back out there.

There's something about nature that keeps me happy. I think most people feel happy out there, but often don't stop to notice it. It's not really a workout-runners style to stop along his route and listen to birds or smell the cedar, but try sometime. Most ultra runners would agree that the best runs are long adventure runs with friends and I believe it's because these runs allow you to take time to smell the proverbial flowers. You really can stop and notice how happy you feel out there.

This post actually comes from a strong sense I have that my sixth grade students are not connecting with nature and feeling the happiness I bring to school every Monday morning, after a weekend in the green. Perhaps there's a similar happiness at Metrotown or messaging with friends, but there's nothing like free and unstructured play in nature.

Have you ever heard the term "Nature Deficit Disorder"? It's not an actual medical disorder yet, but the term was coined to describe all that children are losing by not engaging in nature. Richard Louv, the terms creator, defines it as "The cumulative effect of withdrawing nature from children's experiences". For whatever reason, over protective parents, spatial constraints, lack of interest, whatever . . . kids are not playing outside like they once did.

Check out this video and think about it.

Us trail runners, like mountaineers, skiers, climbers, hikers, whoever, really are the kids that played outside all day long. Look at us now. When we're not outside, we're looking outside and wishing we could be there. Nieces, Nephews, brothers, sisters, sons, or daughters...get'em outside. They're definitely missing out on something huge and happy.


  1. Zen would state that Nature helps dissolves the "I" that connects to "nature" and the experience is being one with nature. There is still a self and that is the true self in the present moment. It is where thoughts become non-linguistic and arise as knowing or deep sensations. The North Shore is technical and sometimes there are long periods of concentration where the attention can gracefully shift to the body (the running). Local runners are always describing these moments in beautiful ways. Also, I keep reading where Ultra runners become one with the competition like athletes that train with each other for years.

    Maybe I trust Nature enough to just let go outside and let everything flow in (friends, surroundings, even the competition).

  2. Hey Tom, thanks for the comment on my blog. sorry it took a few days to read your post. I am in serious "NDD" right now as my term wraps up and I'm in the heart of exams.
    I agree about the fun of natural movement in an outside environment, going as hard or as easy as you want. While structured training has a place, I think all athletes/people need to stay connected with play.

    I have a somewhat different take on NDD. While I agree that we can all learn a great deal from being outside and rec-connecting, I am a bigger believer in just following passions. My passion is playing outside, to others it is playing music, drawing, writing etc...I think that we have to be careful to balance passions with addictions though. A lot of activities, like playing video games/movies/TV, are so carefully designed/engineered to draw people in, that they are more like addictions.
    I think that everyone needs something, their passion, that they can get lost in and let their mind wander a bit.

  3. Your so right with individual passions. We DO each have a talent and ours happen to be related to nature. As a teacher, I'm always thinking of this as it relates to the Multiple Intelligences. I do however, think that whatever your intelligence, you can find art, activity, music, math, etc. in nature. Thanks so much for your perspective. It's always so thoughtful.