Today I ran in the 30th Anniversary Cherry Creek Sneak, along with 10,000 or so other participants. It is one of my city's favorite 5k races and it is a fun and festive atmosphere. I finished in 31:44, not my best time ever, but my best for this race, and a time I was thrilled with considering I was stuck in a bottleneck of walkers and stroller-pushers for much of the first mile. I zigged and zagged my way to a clear path, was finally able to strike out at a comfortable speed, enjoying one song after another that seemed queued up by my own personal DJ but in reality were being doled out by chance. I have been trail running through some steep terrain for the past month or so, and I could feel the benefit it's given my endurance and the faith, especially on the downhill, to let my legs carry me. I finished grinning like a fool and telling my boyfriend how much fun I had - even he could see the difference as he's seen me at the end of many a race.
But...I'm a rider, and isn't this supposed to be a horse blog? I have been riding far longer than I've been running, and I still don't really consider myself a runner. Running is something I do, along with weight training, to stay fit and balance out my adoration for cooking and fine dining. My boyfriend is a serious runner who has completed half and full marathons and is training for more this year. Running is another way we can spend time together, although most of that time I'm far behind and we reunite at the finish line. What does all of this have to do with riding? I'm telling you, it's all connected...
On Friday I had a lesson on Coro. It was not the lesson I or my trainer had planned, and it offered its own challenges, but it turned into the lesson we needed, for Coro clearly had something to show me. Warm days in Colorado often bring the unwelcome companion of strong winds, and since voices are carried away and unidentified flying objects prove distracting, we opted for an indoor session. Coro spent all winter learning to swim in the deep sand footing, but having our last few rides back on more solid ground meant a tougher return to the soft stuff. We got stuck in the corners, Coro was sluggish and was getting a little too fond of the 'stop and discuss' portions of the lesson. We had absolutely no shoulder-in, and a wandering, on-again, off-again trot. The real magic of Friday's lesson happened on a loose rein, at the walk. As we cruised the perimeter and I gave my hands forward, Coro's topline lengthened and lowered. I could see the beautiful arc of his crest, and felt his back rise beneath me. He sighed and blew. I tried to connect soft elbows to the corners of his mouth, and while we lost this balance for the most part when we next picked up the trot, there were moments here and there when it came together again and we floated. It was enough to hold on to, or rather to let go of, to send dancing into the realm of what is possible.
Today wasn't the first day I've let Coro be my inspiration to keep running, to do more than I thought I could, to push harder. Whenever the weights seem too heavy or the distance too far, I think of Coro, bending for me when he may be stiff, trotting for me when he may be tired, taking the bit in his mouth when he knows it means hard work. All the while carrying me, an extra fifteen percent of his body weight, with a structurally imperfect heart and less-than-ideal airways. Today, though, was different. I was thinking not of what I could do, but how I could do it. I wasn't struggling just to get there, so how I could I get there better? I let my muscles relax and lengthen, I imagined myself lighter, the ground not something to push against, but something to lift off of, even something to lift me. I thought about the free swing of Coro's walk, the lilt of his trot. I practiced lightness, impulsion and self-carriage. Coro's name, with another "r", the Spanish corro, means "I run." The miles seemed short today. I felt energetic and graceful. I didn't let the pressure of the visible finish line change my rhythm or my breathing. I stopped looking at my watch. My happiness at the end honestly had less to do with my time than just how great I felt in my own body, on my own two feet. Movement doesn't lie.
We can't know what each day will bring - not always what we planned, but sometimes...something even better.
And now...I'm off to ride.