With autumn in full swing here in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter seemingly right around the corner, I find myself reflecting on the changing of the seasons and its impact on the rhythm of my running. After a long, hot summer of big sunny days in the mountains, the arrival of fall always moves me to tighten up, close in, and strive to set limits on both my running and my life. It’s a subtle shift in mindset and perspective, but one that seems to have a certain regularity for me as the air cools and the days shorten.
In one way, the seasonal swing reminds me that change is inevitable, that it’s important to mix things up and, from time to time, seek new things. But, in another way, the external transformation in the natural world brought on by the falling leaves and darkening sky impels me to seek familiarity and predictability.
It’s an odd paradox, which has me simultaneously seeking out new running routes with new running partners, while also bringing me back to my simple running life — like putting on that comfortable old sweater I haven’t worn in months.
This paradox hit me particularly hard on a recent run in the desert near my home in Arizona. It had been a long day of work, and I was only able to get out about 30 minutes before sunset. The air was already cooling and the sky was a brilliant red on the western horizon. As I settled into my “all-day pace,” I paid more attention to my breathing and the sound of my footfalls than I usually do.
I looked around at the cactus and the creosote and felt a calmness come over me. In that moment, I gave myself permission to slow down. In fact, after a few moments, I slowed to a walk. It’s not that I was tired or was pushing particularly hard; rather, it was that inner voice in my head saying, “Keep things limited, it’s autumn now, no reason to rush.”
I was raised in a Waldorf school and spent much of my formative years being educated in the tradition of the great Austrian educator Rudolf Steiner. Of the many fundamental beliefs Steiner extolled, one that stuck with me the most is that each of the seasons represents the characteristics of the four temperaments.
For those educated in the Waldorf system, these temperaments are: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. The autumnal temperament is phlegmatic. Level-headed, balanced, and measured, the phlegmatic temperament has always been the most challenging one for me to confront, and as a result, I think that is why autumn brings with it such a paradox in me.
Yet, this autumn, as I did on my recent run in the desert, I am resisting the temptation to deny the power of the seasonal swings and seeking acceptance instead. And, so, after a minute or two of walking the other day, I slowly sprung into a running stride, took stock of my surroundings, and proceeded to become joyfully engrossed in the simple act of running with no thought of what I was doing or why I was doing it.
I just listened to my limits and moved through my environment. It was a moment of contentment I won’t soon forget.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s beer of the week comes from Bone Haus Brewing in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Bone Haus features a New England hazy triple IPA, which is just outstanding. Weighing in a whopping 9.25% ABV, Desert Demon is not for the faint of heart. Yet this triple, which could easily be boozy and cloying, is not. Rather, it is a smooth, subtly bitter IPA that fits perfectly into the desert environment.
Call for Comments
- How does the turn of the seasons affect your running?
- Are you taking it a little easier now?