Earlier this week, frustrated with my scattered attention and frustrated with my work day, I took to the trail close to my office.
An experienced—and thoroughly mediocre—runner, my mileage had lately plummeted. I did not struggle with showing up to run, but once I got there, I went through the mere motions of a “run.”
Each day, every run, I surrendered at the pain threshold where will-power is tested, overcome, and quietly imprinted. Without even marginal gains in my endurance, there I was, the next day, on the same run.
For two and a half weeks, I clocked two-mile runs daily—this had become the most reliable part of my routine.
That’s how I felt about my general performance. Like I was just dipping my toes in. The same way I found myself doing with my responsibilities at work, my personal goals, my hobbies. Dipping my toes into ideas about how I can make my life better. Dipping my toes into my friendships.
My whole life felt like a two-mile run. I needed to finish something hard. That afternoon, I decided it would be a six-mile run.
The first two miles: they went okay. As mentioned, I am somewhat of an expert.
Like clockwork, I met my “resistance” during miles three and four. (In personal growth and psychology studies, the term “resistance” refers to the behavioral maxim that “anything worthwhile will be opposed.”)
My completion of four miles sounded off in my headphones and I stopped to re-set. (A convenient pause to consider throwing up). I assessed things.
Where was I? Well, I walked most of miles three and four. I took a phone call. I took stupid pictures.
What frustrated me wasn’t the fact that I stopped running. It wasn’t even that I walked.
It was because I took my time.
But I had two more miles. If I ran miles five and six, well, this was salvageable. Thirsty, tired, at my wits’ end, bored of my own predictability, I remembered the rosary in my shirt pocket. It was a decade pocket rosary so small I had forgotten that I had taken it home to photograph.
The rosary was funky and simple. It was turquoise. It fit around my finger. A revolutionary thought occurred. What if I used it?
In my mind, space is usually booked: reserved for the boxing match where my sparring thoughts compete.
Thoughts like, do I like this song? Is it helping?
And I’d think about how little I got done at work, and whether I would make up for it that evening.
I was thirsty, tired, slow, and half-way through a week with four or five personal projects not yet begun. So what did I have to be tired about? It was a time-squandered week, and there I was, a silly girl taking pictures of a tree trunk.
For the final two miles, for the first time in a long time, I decided I would say a string of Hail Marys. I offered them up for my brother who is starting his SEAL training in Coronado next week.
Suddenly I didn’t recognize my mind. If only because it had fallen quiet. It zoomed into purpose, fell into formation, and responded to two familiar rhythms: my body, tasked with placing one foot in front of the other, and my mind, tasked with the words of the Hail Mary.
Periodically, I would become distracted mid-Hail Mary. Each time I did, I backtracked one bead, gripped it a little harder, took a deep breath, and began again.
Hail Mary, full of grace…
Periodically, I wanted to quit. Each time I did, the backbone of my prayer-intention stopped me.
It was a grueling and slow two miles. But I did run them.
On my own, I wouldn’t know resolve from the branch that hit me in the face back at mile three.
On my own, I consistently lost focus, making myself vulnerable to the fight-or-flight response before allowing time to remember that I had made the decision to keep running, and the “keeping going” was important. Certainly, it was more important than any whining commentary allowed into my thoughts by my deadbeat mental security.
I finished six miles. I had stopped, I had walked, I had lapsed into bad habits, but I finished with a period of endurance. Overall, I could hang up my hat.
I had a rosary on me that I had used. Maybe it was because it fit around my finger, or because it felt personal, like it was made to be mine.
I feel sure this is silly. I know I should say the rosary no matter what it looks like. I feel sure that too much time had passed since I last said one.
I also feel sure that if I did not have this little rosary on me, I would have clocked just another two-mile run, and even more discouraging, I would have lived another “two-mile day.”
I guess it’s not always complicated. I guess the key to using your weapon is having the right one, and bringing it with you.