Change is in the air. The colors are deepening, the sun is lower on the horizon, and there’s a certain calm that comes after the busy-ness of summer. It’s officially autumn now, and the temperatures reflect that change. It was 47 degrees at 6:20 on Saturday morning; warm enough for shorts, but still a mite chilly. By the time I got to the trailhead it was 52 degrees and I was shocked by how balmy the warm air felt. Our seven mile Saturday run was going to be autumnal perfection.
We started at Dowdy Draw and headed into Eldorado Canyon. This is my absolutely favorite run, period. I soaked in the scenery while we ran through the trees, regrouped at the bridge, and headed into the Canyon through a break in the rock walls.
The mile-long climb from the trailhead to the dirt path was, as always, invigorating. It gets the heart rate up and paves the way for the sheen of sweat that stays with you until thirty minutes after the run. As we hit the dirt trail and our various paces were straightened out, Juli and I started running together. She’s done four Ironmans and has raced steadily for the past twelve years. She’s one of the most petite as well as one of the strongest women I know. After some brief chit-chat she abruptly asked if I knew “what was going on”. She was opening the door to a very personal conversation about her sudden, impending divorce. I did a lot of listening, a lot of exclaiming, and asked a few questions.
As we ran and talked, the miles drifted away. Juli’s voice was strong and I noted a new undertone of expression that had previously been guarded. For the first time I heard her talk about what SHE wanted instead of justifying an upheaval that her husband wanted. She talked about her priorities, finding a job, being emotionally and physically available to her 1st grade daughter, and keeping up with her spiritual growth.
When she started talking about spirituality I had to comment, mostly because I was confused.
ME: I thought you were both really enjoying the mediation classes, the community you were finding at your church?
JULI: I thought so too. He did all those things but really, he’s just a Spiritual Poser. He doesn’t want to do the real work that’s required and when it gets hard, he runs away.
So what is a “Spiritual Poser” then? It’s someone who doesn’t walk the talk, make good on the promises, is only there for the season of lushness and then walks away when it gets hard. There can be any number of posers; athletic, intellectual, un-honest people who purport to be something they’re not.
As she was telling me this, we ran along Eldorado Drive and saw a big, beautiful meadow, alive with all the colors that autumn in the Rocky Mountains delivers. Two horses, one a deep brown and the other a pinto, were standing sedately near the fence. The colors of the horses complemented the nature’s autumnal pallet. I stopped to take a picture. I have always loved this run because it’s hard, beautiful, and the last mile and a half is a straight shot of running fast and easy. It’s a perfect balance for this runner.
Balance is all in the eye of the beholder. Athletes complain about being out of balance all the time. “Not enough speed workouts.” “Not enough hills.” “Not enough core training.” We feel it acutely when it’s not right and make adjustments. It seems to me that relationships are the exact same in that there is a constant search for balance. An athlete is always working to balance performance with ability and desire. In a relationship, the partners are externally trying to work on the same project; their relationship. If both partners aren’t striving for balance, consistency, truth, honesty and respect in that relationship, then the whole shebang is out of balance and you’re headed for a serious injury or divorce.
Juli stopped competing last year. I vividly remember the conversation she and I had on this very same trail, last autumn. She’s raced for twelve years and felt like she had gotten that bug out of her system. Competition didn’t hold the same joie de vive for her anymore. Instead of looking backward and clinging to that identity, she dropped it and kept right on going. She still runs and bikes, but only in a teaching or recreational capacity. Last week she gave away almost all her race t-shirts and she’s now getting ready to sell her tri bike. Watch out CHANGE, here comes Juli!
It’s autumn. The leaves are turning, the air is crisp, and we’re pulling out the long sleeved tech shirts. Fall is change, beauty, crispness, life, colors, breath, a sigh, and then it’s gone. I can think of about a dozen good metaphors for life, relationships and the autumnal season, and about another fifty bad ones. My synapses are firing, making connections. Women, beauty, change, life… we’re all that and whole lot more. I pity the man that throws away his marriage because he is too frightened to deepen the marriage bond in his relationship and take love to the next level. Honestly, who wants to always remain in the Summer of life? Not me, and not any of the powerful, intensely devoted and passionate women I know. Thank God.