Before I read Born to Run and Chi Running, I want to write down what running is, as I know it. I don't think I'm a suggestible person — but how would I know?

So before books start tinkering with what I think, here's what I think. And it's going to bore the hell out of most of you unfortunately. You're warned; come back tomorrow.

The Only Wrong Way to Run
This is me: the only wrong way to run is joylessly. Everything else — every other decision in and around the run — is just poking into different corners of the joy.

Why I Run
There are only two things that make me feel, to the core, that I'm doing exactly what I'm meant for. Writing. Running. It makes no difference how well I do either one by anyone else's standards.

When it's really good, I don't even know my own name. In that intimate space, there are only the building sensations and the created thing — words on paper. A run. Ephemera.

What I Want From Running
I mostly just want to feel that way all the time. Faster is good because it takes me farther, which stretches time. I want farther than I can go: five steps, five yards, five minutes more. I want what's just a fingerprint's depth beyond my reach. I want the next moment, the one I get right up to but can't yet grasp. Every single run, I want to reach someplace I couldn't reach last time. I don't believe in finish lines. Except as wonderful places to pause and high five and hug people who have the same goofy grin, for the same reason.

What I Think When I Think Mechanics
On a road run, when it crosses my mind, I inventory the body. Especially if some part feels tired or out of sorts. I think into that part, breathe into it. Think about pulling breath right into it. Help it along with the rest.

Feet land below. Fly behind. Catch me, feet. Invisible cords pull the pelvic bones forward, lining thighs under hips. Let hips do their work. Let hips and core lift thighs, thighs lift legs, legs lift feet. Feet are incidental. Feet are tiny and delicate and wonderful and dependable. I love you, feet. Power concentrates deep in the torso, magnetic and explosive like a little sun. Run through the big toe. I love you, feet. My run is a gift to you. Shoulders back. Neck relax, shoulder relax, shoulderblade relax, elbow relax, wrist relax, mind relax. Balance everything relaxed.

I have no idea what any of this looks like. But if I tire, I feel less tired after this. Sometimes when a run gets hard for whatever reason — legs are leaden or lungs start straining — the inventory is just looking for the part that feels good. Even if it is an elbow or a shoulderblade. I think about what feels good and sort of run from there. Ask that part to carry the rest for a minute. And in the meantime: feet land below. Fly behind. We run right through.

I haven't run trail enough yet to think anything there. If what were going on in my brain looked like words it would probably look like: rock rock rock rock yup root wow go now now now hah! hah! hah!

What I Can Do
In one sense, I don't know what I can do — I only know what I've tested myself against. This week, I can run for fifty minutes at a slowish pace before I walk. I think if I just kept running I would surprise myself pretty well. If I were to alternate the run and walk... wow, I could cover ground for more than a couple of hours. Wow. That's a thought. I ought to try that sometime soon.

I can run five kilometers in just under thirty-two minutes. I can run a 5K after forty minutes of cycling. I think I have a thirty-minute three mile run in me right this minute that I just haven't seen yet. I can run up a long slight grade for a mile and a half or up a hill for a half mile. Can I do more? Not sure; that's what's around my house. My pace is all over the place right now... strength and body are changing rapidly, and I never can tell how fast I'm going. It feels like I'm crawling; I try to go easy so I can go long without stopping, and later when I check, I find I was running faster than before. So lately I've just given up controlling it. If I burn out and have to stop or walk, so be it. It's kind of cool just running to see what happens, to connect the mind to the feeling rather than to the watch. Like learning to shift gears on a bike by feel.

Where I Stand
Lots of runners would look at this list and not see anything impressive. I am one of them. But not because I discount myself or think my run in this life petty.

There is plenty of beauty in what is, and beside that beauty, "impressive" is a shallow need. Though I like standings — mmmm, data — they aren't connected to any system of being impressive or discounted. I like seeing a snapshot of the tribe in numbers on paper. I like seeing my name and numbers there in the middle of all those other people who went out to do this same thing. I like being surprised or schooled, connecting the numbers to the feeling, watching the pattern change over time.

One Thing I've Learned
I would never have known the satisfaction of meeting the glance of another runner, in both of your faces the YEAH OH YEAH. Little spark can glow all day.

Okay. Benchmark done. If you're still reading — oh my god you can STOP now, the navel gazing is done. Joy to you. See you on the road or on the trail.