Your Very Last Run

Your Very Last Run

Your Very Last Run

By Cheryl Hart

I ran eight miles this morning. It felt like a marathon.

Some of you may not know that I have been very ill for the past three months or so. An intestinal problem and extreme fatigue, coupled with a high red blood cell count left the doctors baffled and concerned. There were days when it was an effort to just to shuffle to the next room. It felt like I was trying to wake up from a bad dream.

Despite heavy legs and labored breathing, I found renewed joy in just being a runner again. The miles unfolded in the coolness of the morning, refreshing my spirit. I exchanged greetings with other runners, feeling the familiar sense of kinship we share. I relished the tiredness in my muscles after the run and flush of color in my face from the exertion.

Helen Keller often described how her senses became more acute because of her blindness. She considered it a blessing to smell the flowers blooming along the riverbank where she canoed, or to feel the onset of rain in the air.

For months I watched runners pass by below my large windows overlooking the runners'' path in Seneca Park . I longed to feel the wind in my face or the rain wetting my eyelashes. I wondered if those runners fully appreciated that mile at that moment. Did they see the Canada Geese floating beside them or the dogwood blossoms showering gently down by their feet?

The Moodys, a couple featured in last month''s magazine, believe that you should "live life like you''re dying." I was reminded of them and of their philosophy this morning. Mid-way through the run, I realized that I should put aside the carefully constructed column that I had already prepared because this message is much more important: Sometimes it''s important to run as if it''s your very last run.

There is a scene in the movie "Awakenings" when Robert DeNiro awakens from a sleep-like state and feels the fan blow on his face. He is so excited about being fully alive. His heightened awareness of the most ordinary joys prompts him to call his doctor (Robin Williams) in the middle of the night to convince him of the need to tell every one else to wake up.

I feel that kind of urgency today. Do you know how lucky you are to be runners? Just to be healthy and strong enough to be out there on the road? Don''t wait until you are ill or injured to realize how fortunate you are to be running. On those "bad days" when you struggle up the hills or fall off the goal pace, know that even a bad run is a good day.

"A discontented mind experiences everything as not good enough," said a book I recently read entitled "Do Less, Achieve More." Allow yourself to be content and even exhilarated at times by the sheer act of fluid motion.

If you knew that it was your last run, what would you do and where would you go? Would you worry about your pace? Would you worry about doing exactly what your training log tells you to do that day? Would you look at the splits on your watch and the numbers on your heart-rate monitor?

Just for today, imagine this is your last run. Be spontaneous and veer off the familiar path. Who knows what you might discover down that road. Take off the headset that you wear to drown out your effort and be fully aware of the sound of your breathing and the water cascading over the ledges of the creek. That pounding in your chest is a sign that you are fully alive. Savor it. And run like it''s your very last run.

Cheryl Hart is owner of 2nd Wind, a motivational coaching business with a focus on achieving life goals. She is also a certified personal fitness specialist and spinning instructor. Cheryl was Kentucky ''s NCAA Woman of the Year (1993) and National Inspirational Athlete of the Year (1994). She is a member of Team USA , most recently winning silver medals in both the 2004 World Triathlon and World Duathlon. She was named All-American in triathlon and duathlon (2003 & 2004). Cheryl has a B.A. in English from Centre College, where she served as communications associate, cross-country coach and sports information director. To contact Cheryl, call 693-7443 or e-mail offrunnin@yahoo.com.

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