Saturday, April 25, 2015

on running a farm, and running a marathon

This weekend morning I got up early, put on my work clothes, and headed out to the farm for a day in the greenhouse. After spending the morning transpotting peppers and eggplants, I walked to the outhouse and donned my shorts, t-shirt, and running shoes. (The image of Clark Kent emerging, cape-clad, from a phone booth did not completely escape me.) Then, feeling much lighter and faster than I had while plodding around the farm all morning, I took off for a short run around the neighborhood.

For the past four and a half months, I've been simultaneously ramping up my farm business and training for a marathon. In the last week of December, the same week I ordered my seeds for the coming season, I started the running regimen. Inspired by our friend Aaron, who was about to turn 40 and wanted to celebrate by running his first marathon, Jake and I signed up with him to run the Vancouver, B.C., marathon on May 3.
Team Awesome
And now, just as my farm season is coming into full swing, our training is on its downward tilt towards the finish line. The timing could not be better; it's hard to imagine being able to carve out time for monster runs at the height of the farming season. But as I ran my 4-mile route around the farm today, it was fun to reflect on farming, and running, and trying to find balance in a crazy world.

Just like farming, I came to running kind of late in life. My first organized run was almost exactly 10 years ago, a 10-km race in Boulder, Colorado. After that came a half-marathon in the mountains above Denver, and then a full marathon, after I moved back to Oregon. But it wasn't until the summer of 2011 that farming and running finally came together. After days working on a small vegetable farm in Northeast Oregon, I'd take off with my friends to run on the trails. One long, glorious day, we ran 25 miles through the mountains, passing alpine lake after alpine lake, our legs heavy in the thin air, our hearts pounding with joy.

Some people think it's crazy to try to combine distance running with a hard physical job like farming, but in some ways, they compliment each other. After spending a day bent over, transplanting onions, a slow, easy run will stretch my body back out again. And I am sure that eating that abundance of fresh vegetables I bring home helps me be a better runner. But in other ways, of course, the two are hard to meld. There's only so much time, energy, and will to go around.

So I'm glad that our training is winding down now, so I can refocus my energies on the season ahead. I hope I don't stop running altogether during these summer months, but I might. Either way, it's nice to know that I won't be giving up that feeling of elation that running can bring.

Just like running, farming sometimes forces me to push my limits. To be a good farmer, or a good runner, you have to give it your all, and even then sometimes your all is just barely enough. But with farming, as with running, giving your all can be the reward too. Because, in this crazy world, those moments of serenity that come after exhaustion and pain: I think those are worth working for.

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