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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Old Friends

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an ever-present and occasionally passionate fascination with astronomy.

Somewhere in my boxes of things that I’ll likely never look at again, I still have the report I wrote in 7th grade about constellations. At that time, I was fascinated with pretty much everything, but in particular, I loved reading about mythology. Greek, Roman, Egyptian; it didn’t matter, as long as there were gods and heroes and monsters to explain the ways of the world. My favorite tales ended with characters being immortalized in the stars. I’d learn their names and their stories, and then head outside to see them for myself.

Being a child and working off my sister’s star chart, of course, I’m sure I misidentified nearly every constellation I thought I saw, though there were always a few I could pinpoint. Cassiopeia. The Pleiades. Dippers of all sizes.

And my favorite, Orion.

The three stars of Orion’s belt are just about the easiest formation to identify in the night sky, and while the constellation is only visible in the night sky for 3-4 months out of the year, I felt like he was there whenever I needed him. Plus, the star in his right shoulder is Betelgeuse, which I also enjoy.

When we moved to Texas, everything was new. I didn’t know anyone down here outside of my in-laws, and I was more than a little unsure about the future. Within a few months, though, we had an apartment, I had found a foothold in theatre, and I decided that I wanted to be a runner again. So, in the early hours of a cold Texas morning, I headed out before sunrise to get in a run, and there was Orion, my old friend. Of course, all I could think was, “Huh. They really are big and bright.”

That was about five years ago. A lot and very little has changed since then, and once again, I find myself in December trying to get back into running. In fact, looking back at the last couple years, December has been among the most prolific months for my running. It’s probably more chance than anything else, but I imagine it has something to do with the month’s position between my birthday and the New Year, both times of reflection and goal-setting.

Whatever the reason, the last couple weeks have been very successful for me from an activity standpoint. I’ve gotten up early enough to get a run when needed. I’ve done my cross training and (a little bit of) yoga. I’ve taken my rest when I needed it and haven’t pushed my pace, but instead let my body dictate my ability. And in just the first 8 days of December, I’ve covered 27.5 miles, making this already my 4th-most miles in a month this year. On Friday, I’ll surpass November; my Saturday miles will take me over April; and by Tuesday, the 15th, this will be my most prolific month of the year.

I want to note that this is not due to overworking. I’ve kept my runs (relatively) short and easy. I remind myself to slow down and focus on form throughout the entire run. Most importantly, I’m not rapidly jumping my performance. Instead, I’m taking small, incremental steps to be stronger. I finish workouts thinking, “I could do one more.” Then, instead of doing one more, I stop.

For the first time in a long time, I’m not seeing running as an adversary to be conquered. I don’t need to hit a certain pace or however many miles per week. I’m greeting running as an old friend. I’m just happy to be up on time and out the door. Happy to be moving my feet, reveling in the familiar feelings of strength and freedom that come from hearing the echo of my steps in the pre-dawn stillness. No distractions. No reports. No monsters.

Just me, my run, and Orion.

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