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Better Running Through Imagery

There is something particularly calming about an early-morning run. The western skyline is a deep navy blue, sharply contrasting the street and head lights. Stars shine bright, the sky clear and calm. Soon the sun illuminates the sky to the east and a spectrum of blues and oranges begin to radiate upward. The silhouettes of clouds come into focus now, back-lit by the ever-increasing sunlight. These clouds are where you must train your eye; they will soon (and oh-so-briefly) be fiery pink and magnificent, only to quickly convert to their typical cotton ball hue.

It is this early morning hour which has me almost transfixed at times, providing a stunning backdrop to my runs. Now that I've moved further east towards the Anacostia River I can see these morning displays more clearly, the sun and clouds swirling together and making for a wonderfully calming few minutes spent cooling down on the back porch.

It's no surprise that Runners' World has a two-page Rave Runs section every month with a photo of a runner in some spectacular locale; having something beautiful to look at while running does wonders for one's psyche.

But what about the times when there isn't something stunning in front of us? I have a tendency to draw imagery from film when I need something to pick me up. Some folks hum a tune, others draw upon repeated phrases -- not me.

There are two images that I channel most regularly: one scene from No Country For Old Men, the other from Gladiator. Why these two things come to mind, I am not sure.

The scene from No Country is one in which Josh Brolin's character is fleeing over hill and dale from a bulldog, ultimately running to a river bank and attempting to swim away. In this scene there is only one takeaway for me: that the dog is damned determined. At one point, the dog enters the water, and swims after Brolin, head above the ripples. When I find myself locked into focus on a particular pace or distance, in my mind I have become that dog (our fates, it must be added, are hopefully not the same).

At the point of exhaustion, a different image from Gladiator comes to mind: that of a hand gliding through a field. The image of a soft, flowing field is calming (thanks, childhood in farm country), and I image myself passing lightly over the concrete just as that hand passes lightly over the wheat.

These images are not the only ones that I conjure up, but are the ones that I find myself coming back to time and again. I'm sure that everyone's channeled images or songs are different from my own, but I'm curious what you guys focus on when you're struggling or focused or tired. Maybe it's a song, or a saying. Either way I'd love to know.