Last Sunday, Tim and I headed out bright and early for our weekend run. We discovered a flat, valley trail and ran a dozen kilometres alongside vegetable plots, rows of dirt filled with flourishing green-leafed plants and giving off the smell of fresh morning air and earthy goodness. The kilometres seemed to slip past and I was surprised at how light and easy my stride was, how much energy I had, and how fresh my legs felt.
Sundays are our ‘long run’ days. These are the days we leave the girls to sleep late, and we head out to the trails. Over recent weeks of municipal lockdown, we have been obliged to run only within our municipality. While, mercifully, this extends into the rocky hills of the Sierra de Mijas, it’s hard to reach longer trails that extend over flat ground. Our regular flat trail, that runs along the valley bottom and towards the sea, begins outside our municipal boundary and has therefore been out of bounds for us.
All that to say, over several weeks we have been putting in the miles over endless rocky hill climbs! These kind of routes are not made for speed, but they sure do build strength and endurance. At times the ascents are so steep that running is impossible. Certainly, the technical routes make it crucial to pay attention and pick up your feet! Cruising is not an option.
Imperceptibly, over time, the hard graft of the climbs does its work in you.
Last week, Tim had been feeling some tightness in his lower back. Since his slipped disc - a number of years ago - was precipitated by running hilly trails, he forces himself to pay attention when his back feels tight. During lockdown the swimming pools have been closed and no wild swimming spots have been accessible to him, so it’s not been easy to find ways to ease away back stiffness. In any case, he was keen to avoid any more steep rocky ascents if at all possible. Having chatted with a running buddy, Tim discovered another way onto the flatter valley trails from within our municipality. We could follow the rules and get the run we needed!
Returning to the delightful option of flat running over a forgiving surface, we experienced the ways we had been changed through the hard work of the preceding weeks of challenging running. I reminded myself of that this week, as we have been navigating a particularly challenging situation. We would not choose to be travelling this long and tricky road, with it’s sharp-edged obstacles and apparently endless ascents. And yet, somehow we know that the choices we make to be present here, to bring our whole selves and to give our all to the process, this will change us. Indeed, as the difficulties came to a head this week, we’ve been surprised by our ability to respond with grace, a grace no doubt learned over the many hard climbs of the past year.
Tough times don’t necessarily change us for the better simply by virtue of being tough. Nevertheless, it is possible to see them as a training ground, as an opportunity to build strength and determination into our attitudes.