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The Critical Mass Of Inspiration

When enough factors come together to spur you to do something

Sometimes it takes a few impetuses, an odd collection of inspiration from a variety of sources, to spur you to action.

In my case, such a buildup led to a recent overwhelming desire to start running again. With the occasional exception, I’ve been benched for close to a year since a sudden back injury forced me to slow down to walking or hiking workouts. My physical therapists recommended that I stay out of the running shoes while I worked to strengthen my back. Even after they gave the green light on hitting the road again, I found that it was a bit harder to motivate myself—especially as it got colder and even short runs tended to result in cramps or soreness.

The renewed inspiration came from three very disparate sources: New England’s ever-changing weather, a bestseller from 2009, and a “drinking club with a running problem.”

The latter two I encountered on my October vacation to Maine. A few of my friends there are part of a group called the Hash House Harriers. The trademark outing of this group is the “haring” run, in which people chase down a trail of chalk or flour marks put down by a couple of other runners. The whole thing is interspersed with false trails, frequent bawdy songs or dirty jokes, and a stop for a beer or two.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the mix of exercise and camaraderie made for an incredibly enjoyable afternoon. It was the first time I had run in awhile, and the end result was five and a half miles over trails and farm fields. And to my delight, I found out when I returned that a Groton hashing group has been revived.

A few days later, I stopped into a bookstore I used to live across from and decided to buy a copy of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I’d seen its sky-blue cover there many times before, and the fact that it was still on a prominent shelf a couple of years after its release convinced me to pick it up.

The book focuses on the Tarahumara of Mexico, an isolated society with impressive running abilities. Yet the tale meanders to other aspects of running as well, from the insanity of ultrarunning races four times the length of a marathon to the evolution of human running capacity. This past weekend, I was up to a chapter discussing the resurgence of barefoot running as a beneficial activity.

And this was also a weekend where, in the typical amorphism of New England weather, the frigid snows of the week’s nor’easter had yielded to sunny days with highs in the low 60s.

All of it came together in the decision to drive to Ocean Beach Park, strip off my shoes, and go running along the sand until I felt like stopping. I went through the loose sand near the boardwalk, bounded over small piles left from crews cleaning up Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, thudded along the firmer shell-strewn tide line, and splashed through the shallows of the incoming waves. I couldn’t help but get the Chariots of Fire theme stuck in my head.

I woke up the next morning with a few blisters on my feet and protesting calf muscles. A small price to pay for re-experiencing how much fun it can be when you rediscover doing something you love.

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