Over the weekend, we went to visit my dad, who owns a vacation/future retirement home in Central FL. For those unfamiliar with Central FL, the landscape is very different from South FL; in fact, driving through this part of the state, one would assume they were in Georgia or Alabama, not Florida: There are lush, green trees with cascading Spanish moss, there are pastures and orange groves, and, oh yeah, there are hills.
The rolling kind. But, still: HILLS.
In South Florida, the only hills we have are in the form of bridges or re-purposed landfills. Therefore, I rarely, if ever, run hills.
Much to my running disadvantage. I know all the benefits of hill repeats to boost strength, speed, and endurance, but to do hills, I have to drive somewhere inconvenient, and one of the reasons I love running, is that I can walk out my door and go; if I have to commute somewhere to run, I better get a medal at the end of it.
So, over the weekend, my runs took place on some scenic roads that featured these foreign landscapes.
Saturday morning, I was chugging along, admiring the lovely houses and the rural neighborhood, but couldn't ignore the hard work of huffing and puffing up these hills. At one point, I was putting forth what felt like my hardest effort, yet I felt like I was stuck on a treadmill going no where. I glanced down at my Garmin and was dismayed to see that on the uphill, I was slowing to an 11+ min/mile.
The reward, however, was reaching the hill's crest and then enjoying the easy descent.
But, there wasn't much by way of flatness, so as soon as I reached the road's valley, it was a journey back up. Lordy. It was a short run -- a little more than 3 miles -- but I felt like my exertion was really getting challenged with this run, and I began feeling exhausted; this was too much work! I was ascending one hill and, feeling crabby about the climb, considered walking (or...maybe just turning around). Then, a saying that I'd overheard at a race a few years ago came echoing back: "For every uphill, there's a downhill."
It was hard work going up, but then there was the flooding relief of conquest followed by the ease of running downhill. Granted, there were more hills in the run, but it wasn't as though the entire run was straight up the side of a mountain without any hope of reaching the top. I needed to re-adjust my outlook, and the above saying did just that. It's not all that unique, and I'm sure runners have heard it before, but like many simple mantras, it felt profound.
Plus, the obvious metaphor was something I needed to be reminded of.
I finished the run feeling exhilarated both because of the literal and figurative change of pace, and I felt pleased at my own personal revelation. Running is full of these small, teachable moments, and it's just one more reason to keep lacing up every day. Plus, if I stacked up all these running related epiphanies, I'd have my own little hill of inspiration and burgeoning discoveries about life, growth, and character.
Enough, perhaps, to form a legit mountain of metaphors.