Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I’ve been in a funk. I confess that I used to think that Seasonal Affective Disorder was a load of crap. People honestly want to blame the weather for their woes? Really? Well, let me tell you. Spend one harsh winter training for a marathon by yourself in the Pocono Mountains and you, too, will become a believer.

Fortunately, I’m not one to wallow. The endless inches of ice and snow, the gray skies, the wind-chill factor, and the general feeling of isolation were starting to bring me down. I was struggling with the simplest work assignments. And Mother Nature had interfered with one too many of my workouts. So, two e-mails and a plane ticket later, I was on my way to visit friends in Southern California; a bag of running gear and my laptop in tow.

My California adventure began in “the O.C.” with the O’Briens—friends who I love dearly and can never get enough of. With a new house I hadn’t yet seen and a new son I hadn’t yet met, it was the perfect opportunity to visit. And thankfully they didn’t seem to mind that I invited myself. Yes, I have good friends.

I could write a lot about how nice it felt to head outside in shorts and a tank top, instead of the usual three layers of winter gear. I could talk about how I couldn’t help but feel unadulterated bliss in the California sun on that first morning, looping around suburbia for six easy miles. I could recount the 16-mile, hamstring-burning adventure on the fire roads that twisted up and down and up and down the canyon hills.

But what I really cherished were my afternoon runs with Finn.

Finn is all of 22 months old. Did you know that kids don’t even have patellas at that age? No joke. He’s got no knee caps yet--well, technically they’re there, they just haven’t ossified yet. But, I’m telling you that the boy can run. And he loves it.

Finn, who hasn’t been slowed down in the wake of taking on “big brother” status, lives the life of an elite, professional runner. He wakes up early, has a healthy breakfast of plain yogurt, cheerios, and “nanas!” before he hits the playroom for his morning session of tricycle riding, sprinting around the playground, and climbing on the jungle-gym play set. After a few hours, he heads in for lunch, downs some milk, water, and almond-butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, and takes a nap.

And then the afternoon running session begins. Finn was kind enough to invite me to join him, preventing me from becoming too lazy after my own training was long over for the day. Once sprung from his stroller, Finn takes my hand and takes off, squealing with joy, pulling me along for the journey.

His face? Glowing with an enormous smile. There is nothing in the world the boy would rather be doing than moving forward as fast as he’s able. He views running as freedom and fun. He doesn’t worry about pace, time, mileage, form. He stops for water when he’s thirsty. He looks at the scenery along the way, especially enamored with anything resembling the shape of a circle (“Kirkle!” ). He says hi to other people passing by. He doesn’t know what tired is or that what he’s doing is hard work. When he meets a hill, he charges at it, screaming, “Up, up, up, up, up!!!!!”

Running in Finn’s world is simply play. And after more than a mile of running hand-in-hand in his world, I started to think of it that way too. What can I say? It was infectious. And I suspect that on April 20th in Boston, I will hear that enthusiastic little voice in my head as I tackle Heartbreak Hill: Up, up, up, up, up!!!!

Yes, thanks to the little guy, it wasn’t just the California weather that started reinvigorating my attitude and perspective.



Coach Adam said...

SADD is definitely real, coming from someone who grew up bathed in California sunshine and then came out the dreary east; it definitely affects the mental, physical and emotional state. The gray buildings and dirty gray sidewalks in Manhattan don't help. It's like walking through the life of Tom Hanks's character in the beginning of Joe vs the Volcano. I realized in CA there is simply a lot more color to stimulate one's imagination and to inspire.

Glad you enjoyed it.

Nancy S. said...

I've been feeling SADD myself lately out here, recovering from an injury, in dreary NJ and I come here and it feels so nice to read Erin's words, and see Adam's response. Old friends :-) Guess what - my husband's brother wrote Joe vs. the Volcano (We went to the movie premiere and party and met Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, before they were married. Ah, the old days.) I hope you are doing well, and that I see you soon!

Javier said...

Sometimes the best educators are the ones who dont know better. Finn sounds liek a great role model. I see he is already training as a TRI athlete :)