The Peace Of Repetition

AJW's TaproomThe route of my daily morning run starts at my front doorstep, descends a small hill, crosses the main street of our town, and proceeds down a quiet country lane to a small city park. This time of year, while running in the pre-dawn darkness, my attention during these early miles is drawn inexorably to the sound of my footsteps on the pavement. Something about the rhythmical, repetitive pitter patter of my running stride seems more pronounced in the quiet cold of early winter mornings.

Typically, by the time I circle the city park and venture into the hills surrounding the park, my focus has drifted to more substantial things and away from the simple and ordinary sound of my footfalls. But for those first precious moments of awakening, it is all about the footsteps.

Yesterday, as my mind wandered to other things some 30 minutes into my run, I found myself dwelling on repetition. Repetition has always fascinated me. On one hand, repetition gets a bum rap as it is often considered boring, mind-numbing, and trivial. Indeed, since the Industrial Revolution, typically repetitive tasks, whether in the workplace or in the home, have been relegated to second-class status the world over. Yet, on the other hand, repetition, in all its forms, is essential for the mastery of a great many things in life. Drills, whether they are in math class, basketball practice, or music rehearsal, have always been a fundamental part of successful practice in a wide swath of our human challenges.

And so it is with running that I have come to embrace and celebrate repetition. Not just as a drill that brings success to my practice but also as a meditative process that brings me peace. While some see running as drudgery, I see it as an act of liberation. In its deliberative, practical, and often metronomic repetition, running opens me up to a world of rich imagination, thoughtful creativity, and deeper thinking. It is, in fact, through repetition that I am drawn out of the mundane and, in the best of circumstances, exposed to the sublime.

So the next time your motivation wanes and the thought of another boring run brings you down, focus upon repetition. Draw yourself into the process of running, of training, of living the life of a runner. A life of repetition and revelation. A place where even in the midst of another Wednesday morning slog through the park, wonder can be found and a life can be changed.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Blue Nelson Brewery Full Nelson Pale AleThis week’s Beer of the Week is Full Nelson Virginia Pale Ale from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Virginia. This crisp, almost fruity American Pale Ale is a diamond in the rough in the crowded Pale Ale market of central Virginia. Full Nelson is one of those beers that maintains its complexity even after one or two. If you’re in town for the Hellgate 100k this weekend, be sure to give this one a try!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • How do you feel about the repetitive actions and behaviors that come along with our sport?
  • Is there a repetitive element of your stride that you hone in on to help you focus, or even to help your focus fade?
  • What about the repetitive act of running over the course of your lifetime or a long period of time? Is there a part of that repetition with which you struggle? A part that you love?

There are 5 comments

  1. Barry Collins

    This really strikes a chord right now for me AJW, after 6 months in the running wilderness since running a PB at a 50 mile race , where I questioned why I ever started running in the first place, I dragged myself outside the door this week, have run the same route as I always have, and low and behold the fire is lit again, and hopefully those flames will continue to roar and the repetition of training will take me to my 100 mile debut in May 2018 to the Thames Path 100, the same one Bryon did :)

  2. Brady

    Well put AJW. I find my weekly morning easy runs help me understand where I’m at physically or mentally on a particular day. Like a well controlled scientific experiment where most variable are held constant, time of day, running route, weather (I’m in CA, it doesn’t change much), even down to the same running gear and shoes day after day, if something feels different or “off” it’s much easier to see and understand why.

  3. Run GMD

    Full Nelson?!? AJW, you continue to surprise. Well played, sir. Full Nelson, Starr Hill’s Northern Lights, and even Champion’s Missile have become so commonplace “round these parts” that I forget what a wonderful discovery they can be for our visitors. While I love that I find Three Notch’d’s 40 Mile and Seven Arrows’ Eventide at my local gas station, that very success that has caused wonderful, foundational central Virginia craft beers like Full Nelson to recede in my consciousness. Had you hinted that you’d keep it very close to home for Hellgate this week, I’d have expected something like Basic City’s Bask or Pale Fire’s Deadly Rhythm.

    A propos of the beer note, I prefer “rhythm” to “repetition” for my daily sacrament. To me “rhythm” connotes a deliberate engagement to stay synchronous with the pace of life. Five miles today, a quick two tomorrow, longer and more deliberate after that, but each time in a cycle repeating across the weeks, the seasons, the years. Something you set, rather than something you do. By contrast, “repetition” signifies a less mindful repeating of the same task again and again a la “Groundhog Day” (less than 60 days away, I’d have you know!). Can virtue be found in such persistent, daily discipline? Of course! But there is something about a more mindful approach that appeals.

  4. Ben Wyrick

    Repetition in the visual arts is a foundational design principle. It makes the viewer more interested in the work of art. The eye says, “I know what’s coming next, I know what’s coming next,” and becomes more involved in the artwork. It is a powerful design technique to establish a pattern then veer away from that pattern and then return to the original rhythm. We like to know that we’re returning to that comfortable rhythm. Works in music, poetry, and visual art. Maybe running? How about some serious training runs in a remote location…say Silverton…then return to your old stomping grounds. And if that works for you one year, why not try it another year? Repeat, repeat, repeat. Until you are a veteran at repetition.

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