by Tori Christie

I had a friend in college who noted that his life was so much more interesting when he put theme music to his actions and activities, particularly the seemingly mundane ones. His perfunctory walks across campus could elevate from desultory commutes to meaningful missions merely by imagining a song playing in the background. And, yes, he imagined the song he heard rather than actually listening to it. Keep in mind that this was back in the day when he would have had a Walkman and a cassette, so calling up theme music on the spot was not really possible. I think of that sometimes when I am running. I notice a faster pace, a lighter step in my feet when the right theme music is playing. I mean, really, it is more like a soundtrack than theme music, but that’s okay—the same idea. The same semi-transformational idea applies in real life instead of just in the fictional life on the big screen.

Recently, while I was out for a run, I noticed a giant bag of dog poop in a tied-off shopping bag (please, God, let that be dog feces I saw) lying right next to the sidewalk. At first, I thought, why would someone bother picking up the poop at all if he was going to discard the bag full of crap right there on the lawn? At that point, why wouldn’t you leave the poop, sans bag, in the grass? I found myself getting a little worked up over the flagrant disregard for social mores that require us to pick up our dog’s excrement. But then I noticed the three tiers of blooming phlox on my left. Billowing piles of dense clusters of lavender flowers, spilling over three levels of retaining walls immediately put a smile on my face. And then, as if on cue, a Fitz and the Tantrums song began to play in my ears (literally played in my ears, as I had my earbuds in), and the whistling introduction, followed by the upbeat melody, made my smile grow. The soundtrack was so appropriate.

At that moment, I realized I could focus my thoughts and energy on the stinky pile of poop on my right, or I could focus on the beautiful blooming ground cover on my left. Of course, this could be the same approach in our lives right now. It could also be how we approach running. There are certainly going to be some figurative stinky and offensive bags of poop in our training. Heck, we might even step in some figurative poop once in a while. We won’t always like the weather. We won’t always have someone to run beside us. We won’t always hit pace goals. We won’t always have time to run all the miles on our training schedule. We won’t always have the energy to run all the miles on our training schedule. We won’t always feel good. We won’t – and this is a big one – we won’t always feel confident. So, yes, we will encounter some foul bags of feces, to be sure. I can’t pretend they won’t be there. I am not in denial. I have done this too many times. But I can, instead, choose to focus on the beauty, the joy, that is also part of every run, that is in ample abundance. I can let those negative thoughts, those deviations, and disappointments, get stuck in my head and manifest in negative emotions, or I can let the figurative and literal beauty be the catalyst for positivity. I choose to see the phlox. More importantly, I choose to keep that image center stage in my mind, inspiring happiness, smiles, and gratitude. And I will undoubtedly continue to hear these lyrics playing in the background:

Ooh, crazy’s what they think about me
Ain’t gonna stop cause they tell me so
Cause 99 miles per hour baby
Is how fast that I like to go

Can’t keep up with my rhythm
Though they keep trying
Too quick for the lines they throw
I walk to the sound of my own drum
It goes, they go, we go

So, as we all prepare our training schedule for our fall marathon at the IMT Des Moines Marathon, I encourage you to, like me, be very intentional about optimizing your reframing skills at every opportunity. Be ready to adjust the lens through which you view the world and your running. Don’t fixate on the bad stuff. Acknowledge it, when necessary, and then move on. Quickly. Spend your time and energy on the good stuff. See the phlox. It is always there. You need to look for it.

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