April 25, 2024 - University of Edinburgh, Scotland

I have Friday off in Edinburgh.

Thursday was amazing: a short run in the morning up to the sunny heights of Holyrood Park, an afternoon wandering the Royal Mile with my host at University of Edinburgh, and then an Odyssey show in a warm intimate theater space on campus with great attendance and brilliant discussion. 

And my voice, after five days on the road, finally feeling like my voice should feel. 

There’s something about the third show of a tour for me lately that seems to be when things click. The first two shows were very good. This one feels like I’ve worked my way to a place of discovery, a place where I’m not just executing the songs but able to find new things about them even as I creep towards 400 performances over 22 years.

When I find new things I can feel the room change. I imagine that the audience can feel something too, some sort of different energy coming off of me as I exist in a liminal state of discovery.

So Friday’s day off is a real treat in a city that is beautiful and mysterious and intense and unique.

What do I do? 

I take a run, of course.

It’s no secret I love running. Since my first half-marathon in 2006 running has been the most integral part of my physical and mental health and really something more than that: it’s been a large and growing part of my identity. 

I can tick off the measurable running and running-related accomplishments of the last 18 years: 17 half-marathons, 9 marathons, one 50 mile ultramarathon. 2 half-Ironmans, 2 Ironmans.  Since 2018, when I shifted from triathlon to running exclusively, I’ve run almost 8000 miles.  I don’t have good data from 2006 to 2018 but a conservative estimate would be that I’ve run over 16,000 miles since that first half marathon, something like two-thirds of the way around the world.

And in the last six months, 18 years into serious endurance racing and at the age of 46, I’ve experienced a profound change in my running life: I’m running better than I’ve ever run. 

I am very aware that in my late 40s my physical capacity is decreasing. That’s the arc of human aging. 

But last fall something clicked for me mentally and since then I’ve had the best stretch of running I’ve ever had, running consistently longer and stronger and even faster at times. Feeling better. Feeling freer. Bringing my weekly offseason mileage up 60% more than it’s ever been. Thinking about longer races and enjoying in an even more profound way the time I get to exist in the activity of running.

What I think I’ve finally learned to do is to get my running brain in that same liminal space I get to when I’m performing. Into that space of discovery without judgement. 

So I set out on a Friday in Edinburgh for a 10 mile run, a distance I’ve been doing three times a week this year. 

You can see a lot of a place on a 10 mile route and mine takes me from the heights of the Castle on one end of the Royal Mile, out along the winding natural tranquil of the Water of Leith, through the industrial grit of Leith, down the coast to Portobello and then back to the city center, weaving to avoid having to climb the heights of Holyrood park again (I said I was running strongly, not a glutton for punishment), and back to my AirBnB where I started. 10 miles, easy.

The other thing that comes with this running renaissance is gratitude for my health.  Mental strength means nothing without physical health and I feel extremely lucky that my body is for the moment cooperating with my brain. I’m aware that could change at any moment.

I’m intrigued as to how this phase of running will play out and fascinated at how the change is happening this far into my running journey.

Sometimes you get results only after a long, long period of time and effort.

Just ask Odysseus.

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