[Roxanne Dubois] Saturday, April 11, 2020
Reflections on the parallels of physical training and the required practice, endurance and effort needed to build a better world.
I am not one of those people who enjoys running. I get why some love the activity; it’s freeing, accessible and mobile. I just hate it.
I am running because of the pandemic. Because the gyms and pools are closed and because I live near a park. I am running because it is spring and because I have to do something. I am running with plenty of distance from other walkers, runners or cyclists – I mean a good 10 metres.
I don’t lack the drive to go on a run, no. I’m happy to put on running clothes and shoes and step outside. I like the anticipation of the promenade, the trek, the fresh air. In these times of confinement, any valid reason to leave the house is a good one, and we’re still allowed to go out for a run for the time being.
Here’s what happens when I go running. The first 30 seconds are great. I am busy looking around, wondering if my shoe laces are tight enough, and feeling the sun and breeze on my face. I get my joints and muscles to limber up. I have some good, energetic momentum to propel me.
Before too long I will start feeling my aches. Hello. The ones I feel because I also went running yesterday, or because I spent all day on a less-than-ideal chair in my makeshift home office. I feel those and I pretend that I am stronger than they are and I keep going.
After the aches, I usually switch to noticing my breath. It’s picking up and I know I’m pulling in more oxygen than when I am just sitting around. I get a little dizzy but I manage and keep at it. Then, I get warm, and realize I did not need that extra layer of super thin wool that will cause me to overheat. I have got it on now, though, so I guess I am stuck with it on my back. I unzip my collar and push through.
I keep a rhythm with my feet. I try to deepen and lengthen my breath. I think of that character in Lawrence Hill’s novel The Illegal who had a way to explain how your feet should float while you run. How the correct way is making your entire body avoid loud thumps when your feet hit the ground one after the other, over and over again. Also helps the knees, I think.
So when all this is done and I’ve hit my stride and I feel like I could go on and on and run until the next town, I start hearing it.
It’s that little voice telling me I want a break. I need a break. The fun ends right there and the hard part starts, and I’ve been running approximately one minute and thirty seconds.
This voice won’t leave me for the next 19 minutes. It will have some fun with me by sending me cramps and headaches. It’ll toy with my confidence by sending fast runners to pass me on the left. It’ll do its best to convince me that it’s all for not and that I should stop.
While my body is yelling at me for making it do something it hates so completely, my mind has this impressive ability to be elsewhere. These days, it wanders to different corners of the unknown caused by the pandemic. It thinks of my relatives in long-term care homes. Or the people I know who go to work in a hospital, like soldiers, facing the scariest outcomes out of duty and necessity. I think of the isolation we’re all going through, the anxiety of seeing too much time go by before I can see my loved ones, the fear of not recognizing them and their mannerisms. The dread of losing work, and the nightmare of never getting it back.
I think of what it will take to get us out of the crisis. I think of the recovery we should build and the recovery we are likely to get.
I think that if we had political leaders with the will to match our times, they would look at the situation and do things that seem uncomfortable.
They might invent jobs, not just cut cheques, to make what we require and to deliver the services we need. It would be weird, it might even hurt, at first.
They might choose this time to get a public, universal pharmacare program off the ground to ensure access to affordable medication for everyone in Canada. That might cause some collective dizziness.
There would undoubtedly be some aches, and cramps. There would be many voices telling them to slow down, to take a break. Some that would tell them to stop.
If we had the political leaders with the will to match our times, they would push through and keep running.
Most athletes and coaches know this of course, but I think I am starting to catch on. If I keep at it, it sort of gets easier. Not necessarily better, but a little bit less impossible.
My last run is the first one ever that felt natural. Like I could keep up. I can hear that voice prompting me to take a break, but I can set it aside and delay that break.
I guess this is what training feels like.
Roxanne Dubois | Toronto | April 11, 2020