June 2, 2010

A Riesling, a Pinot Noir and a Blend with a Naughty Name, Oil on Canvas 22" x 28"

A couple weeks ago, I ran the Rockford Mini-Marathon (it was actually 13.2 miles instead of 13.1 – like that extra tenth of a mile makes a major difference – it’s still a long way to run). I am not a great runner and any prize money is beyond my grasp. My aim is to run a personal best time.  I have participated in mini-marathons twice before. Both times it took me just over two hours to complete the course.  My goal at  Rockford was to break the two hour mark.

I had trained for this run. I have averaged running around thirty miles per week over the previous three months (through all the cold and winds of early spring). My training included short distance 1/4 mile sprints, mid distance runs of 4 to 6 miles and longer runs ranging from 10 – 14 miles.

Standing with the mass of runners at the starting line, well back in the pack, I could feel my adrenaline rushing. I was eager for the starting gun to sound. I had a plan to run nine minute miles. If I can control my excitement and manage my run, I believed that I could achieve my goal.

As the race began, I stayed relaxed. I paid attention to my breathing. I analyzed my strides. I confirm that I am not running too fast. It is a long race. No sense sprinting too soon, losing control and be unable to finish strong. While I ran, I took note to enjoy early stages of the run.

As I reach the halfway point, I am slightly ahead of my target.  My race is progressing as I had planned. I continue to ensure that I am staying comfortable. Can I run faster? Yes, but not yet. It is too soon.  As I reach the 10 mile mark a certain degree of fatigue enters, but I press on. I am still running ahead of my target and I am still comfortab…I can’t say it. I am not comfortable. I am getting tired. I want this race to be over…soon. Shortly after I pass the 11 mile mark, I notice that my feet are starting to hurt. No, they don’t hurt. They burn! My feet are sore and I am tired, I would like to stop and say that I am done. But I need to finish what I started. I have come this far. What’s a few more minutes, a few more strides, and a few more breaths. The race will be completed only when I reach the finish line.

To take my mind off of the fatigue  and discomfort of a distance run, I let my mind contemplate challenges in my life. Often I use this time of strained meditation to figure solutions to my artwork as well as exercises to help my students. As I fend off the fatigue from this mini-marathon,  it occurs to me that running this distance race is a lot like creating art.

I come up with an idea for a painting or a series of paintings. I create a goal. I need to ensure that I train to ensure success. I need to research the subject. I need to create thumbnail  drawings to ensure that I know my subject and test the design. I create small color studies to increase my comfort with the subject and my vision.

I plan a strategy. Before I start to paint, I give thought to the steps necessary to complete my painting. As my painting begins, I stay relaxed, I want to move with certainty and a degree of boldness. I need to avoid moving too fast. It’s a long way until my painting is complete. As I work my painting, I analyze to ensure that I am staying on track with my vision. I make adjustments as necessary. As I near the finish, I feel a some degree of fatigue and want the painting to be done.  I need to stay focused and ensure that I have completed all steps sufficiently and set my painting for a strong finish.  The final strokes of details are my sprint to the finish line.

On this day, I completed the Rockford Mini-Marathon ahead of my expectations and with a strong finish. One hour fifty-three minutes and thirty-four seconds. Now, on to my next painting, or should I say race.

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