I’m learning that for many years, I never knew how to run. I was chronically injured and always fighting my way through workouts, desperately trying to succeed and to reach my goals. And I did relatively well, given that I ran six Boston Marathons and clocked a 2:46 in another major marathon. After being sober for nine months in AA, I ran and won my first 50k, came in 4th in my first 50 Miler and then won a major International Ultramarathon this past summer. I don’t say this to be boastful – I say it to let you know that I still have so much to learn and that I’ve been doing it mostly wrong all along, especially in terms of mechanics. Lately I’ve been extensively studying barefoot running and trying to practice its principles and it’s hard – like the program of AA, it’s principles are simple and they work, but it’s an ongoing process and it’s a daily challenge that takes practice and mindful attention. It’s added another layer to my running that is both exciting and challenging and I’ve begun to see traditional shoes with elevated heels and max cushioning as “the easier, softer way” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 58). Yes, those types of shoes got me to a good number of start and finish lines, but all too often the price was injury and prolonged periods of recovery minus any running. Just as in my sobriety when I learned I had been living the wrong way for most of my life, I’m learning that my running form devolved into such bad shape that I needed to trade in all my old running practices for new ones.
I guess I could just continue on with traditional shoes, pounding away year after year and taking time off when the aches and pains become too restrictive. But the fact is, I want to run until the day I die if possible and if I can do it in a way that is healthier, more sustainable and ultimately more enjoyable, then I think it’s wise to try. I may need to sacrifice some speed initially and maybe even some setbacks due to soreness in new places, but I’m willing to give this an honest effort. The thing is, when you really begin to study barefoot running and you practice it, you can see and feel its benefits. And admittedly, it’s not for everyone, just like AA is not for everyone. But for someone like myself, who seems to naturally drift toward uncommon sense and deviation from the norm, barefoot running and AA offer me real solutions. In other words, I’m pretty dumb in a lot of ways and I need some directions or if you like, “steps” to follow.
As I said, I would like to be running and active in Alcoholics Anonymous for the long haul. If that means conforming to some natural principles that in my opinion, are God-given, then I’m all in. I don’t want to run recklessly with poor form and cushioned shoes only to find in my 50’s or 60’s that I need knee, hip or back surgery. And I don’t want to sit on the sidelines of Alcoholics Anonymous either, not doing service, not sponsoring others, or heaven forbid, staying sober all on my own and trusting to my own limited ideas of sanity and usefulness. Call me a fool, but I’m willing to ask for “His protection and care with complete abandon” and to take the steps “which are suggested as a program of recovery” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 59).
AA Grapevine’s “At Wit’s End” Joke of the Week
A wife was in bed with her lover when she heard her husband’s key in the door.
“Stay where you are,” she said. “He’s so drunk he won’t even notice you’re in bed with me.”
Sure enough, the husband lurched into bed none the wiser, but a few minutes later, through a drunken haze, he saw six feet sticking out at the end of the bed.
He turned to his wife: “Hey, there are six feet in this bed. There should only be four. What’s going on?”
“Nonsense,” said the wife. “You’re so drunk you miscounted. Get out of bed and try again. You can see better from over there.”
The husband climbed out of bed and counted. “One, two, three, four. You’re right, you know.”