Posted by: Karen | August 25, 2008

Gravity: Don’t Waste It

When I first started running. I didn’t like gravity at all. It made me feel heavy. It was too strong. It made it hard to lift my feet and move myself along.

When I discovered how much I like running down hills, I began to appreciate gravity again. Even though it still makes it difficult to get myself UP the hills, it has its place. I love to throw myself into the descent, letting gravity pull me down as fast as it wants, only touching down tactically like someone rappelling down a cliff side.

Gravity’s pull is still able to surprise me. Every now and then I fall on a patch of ice or slip on a bit of gravel and I’m reminded not to take it lightly.

We need gravity. In the tangible world, it is a set of rules that keeps us grounded. It helps our running shoes to stay right where we left them. It gives us a safe place to find ourselves when we re-charge.

Downtime can be good. Rest helps us to recover, and training is as much about recovery as it is about the struggle. Sometimes inertia can make us feel safer than the change momentum brings, but life is not static and those who do not move along cease living.

Our survival demands that we continually push back against the predictable gravity in our lives. We must push against the limits and the mundane, to see how far we can go. Gravity gives us resistance against which we can build our strengths. How far can we go?

“Don’t oppose forces. Use them.”
Buckminster Fuller

Gravity is a boundary, a refuge, a constraint, a hindrance, a guiding force. When we train, we use the figurative gravity of time, geography, genetics, nutrition, guidelines, training plans, coaches, groups, books, clinics, the internet, doctors, therapists, research, and mentors.

Sometimes our gravity can be buddies who keep us honest and encouraged and on track. Alternatively, friends can also help us strive against the downward forces. They are support so we don’t fall down, or they help us get back up again when we do.

I used to have dreams where I’d run, but I couldn’t touch the ground. Not enough gravity; no traction. No traction meant minimal forward progress – I just floated randomly along. I used to think these hovering dreams were good, because I felt light and there was no pain or even effort. Now I don’t see it that way.

Now I LIKE my connection with the ground. I like how it feels under my feet. I love the differences in terrain; soft, hard, crunchy, squishy, shifty, solid, dusty, wet. I relish how the changing surfaces beneath my feet challenge my balance, my efforts to move along, and keep my mind in the moment. Years of trail running have warped my thinking.

I used to hate having to pick up my feet for a curb or a lump of snow. Grassy trails were to be avoided. Now I enjoy the focus my connection with the earth demands. I still struggle against my limits and there are many days when just getting up and staying out there is a big battle, but I’m stronger for it. Every now and then I even enjoy running UP a hill.

The mountain’s peak is not the place my true joy will be found.
I am merely climbing up so that I may run down!


  1. Great essay, Karen. I especially like the metaphorical elements. Hope as I type this you are sticking close to the campground and inhaling the fresh air and the quiet.

  2. The last time I tried the power of the gravity I broke my leg……


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