The best part about running is that there are only two constants: left, right and repeat. It is definitely the rainy season here, as dark clouds roll in at about every day. Some days I just need to go for a run no matter what the conditions. It was hotter than usual yesterday and I told myself I would go out no matter what the temperature was—I would just need to bring water...
I got home from school and changed into some running clothes and decided to lace up an old pair of shoes in case there was mud on the trail. When I stepped outside, I saw the storm approaching from the north and I knew that I would be running right into it. Sometimes, the storms aren’t so bad here; it will just sprinkle and there will be some mild thunder accompanying the dark clouds. Other times the rain damn near forms river rapid systems through the unpaved streets. I couldn’t tell which one it was yesterday, but I didn’t really care. I decided to be bold.
North of my town there is a path that follows a valley that was cut by a river. This is my running path. The path is so diverse in its terrain that I haven’t gotten the least bit bored of it for 6 months. Especially since the rains came, the path is completely different now. Lush green vegetation shades most of the path, which is a welcome break from the afternoon sun. I figured the vegetation would give me some cover if it decided to rain too. As I reached the trailhead, I looked up to see that the space in between the two mountains had sheets of opaque rain that blocked much of the view. I knew I was going to get soaked.
There are like 5 river crossings until the end of the path. At the end, there is really no sense in trying to go further as you would pretty much be walking through dense jungle-like brush and traversing riverbeds. Depending on what time of year it is, the river can be dry or filled with water. Before today, I never had an issue crossing. I would say that the normal level for the river is around
3 inches if any water at all. Normally if there is a little extra water, there are always large rocks protruding that make for nice lily pads to hop across. There were no such lily pads yesterday.
As I made it to the first river crossing, the rain started to come down pretty heavy. My Ipod was getting wet so I decided to put it in a ziplock bag that I brought for just such an occasion. The river was higher than I had ever seen it. I stopped my watch and thought long and hard about turning back. I felt adventurous and decided I would cross. Just before I jumped I looked like an apprehensive dog or cat hanging on a ledge deciding whether to take the plunge. I bound across, just sinking one of my legs shin high. I remember thinking, “That’s not a good sign.”
The further north I got, the harder it rained and river crossings became more difficult. There is one main river crossing that even when it is at a low water level, I usually get my feet a little wet. When I arrived, that part of the river was torrential. There were rapids and strong currents. I was repeating something I heard over and over in my head, “It only takes about
2 inches of running water to knock you over.” In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a good idea to cross this one knowing that I would have to cross it on the way back, but I did it anyways. At first I thought it was shin deep like the other one until I plunged ass deep in a pool and got caught in a current. I lost control and got swept a couple meters down river and did my best to stay balanced enough to keep the Ipod out of the water. I made it to the other side and continued to run with soggy shoes, which was kind of like running with ankle weights. On the way back I took the river diagonally with the current and it was much easier to pass. The rain came down even harder on the way back because I was running with the storm. It was coming down in huge, tropical drops that filled my mouth every time I breathed. Definitely not my fastest run by any means, what with all the mud pits and river crossings, but it had to be the most fun.
Today I decided to go for another run and I took my time. I was more worried about settling into that rhythm than anything else. Any runner will tell you that that rhythm is the only thing to strive for. It is the effortless, mindless lull of left and right that puts just the right part of my brain to sleep and activates a whole other part that I don’t get to use during the day. There is a treatment for PSTD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). The back and forth movement of the eye is supposed to activate both sides of the brain so that information can fully be recalled. According to Francine Shapiro, the developer of the theory, “The memory and associated stimuli of traumatic events are inadequately processed, and are dysfunctionally stored in an isolated memory network. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process these distressing memories, reducing their lingering influence and allowing clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms.”
A great deal of professionals don’t use eye movements, but rather use a pulse system. The patient holds a small object in each hand that alternates pulses between the two hands at whatever speed feels comfortable to the patient. The left to right rhythm helps the patient to relax, remember, and eventually reprocess and restore information in a healthy way. EMDR has been proven effective despite many critics. Most of the critics argue that it isn’t the right to left motion that is helping the patient; rather it is just recalling the events and working through them that makes the difference. Either way, the results have been extremely positive.
I feel that this has a definite connection to running. The rhythm of a runners stride acts as the right-left stimulation. I always seem to be processing so much information when I am running and after the run I always feel as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Some may call this a runner’s high filling the brain with endorphins, but maybe the brain has just found a better way to process the information from a long day’s work. When a runner decides to run may depend on when they like to get their information processed. Some people may prefer to start their day by preparing and processing information to make their day go smoothly. There are probably people like me who are more reflective and view a run as a way to wind down and echo the day’s happenings. Regardless, I don’t think you can argue the fact that running is therapeutic both physically and mentally. There are only two constants to a run—left and right—everything else is up to interpretation and a little bit of Mother Nature.