The zen art of running with WTF and Garry Shandling


I am entering longer runs by myself on Fridays and the extent to which my brain will debate with me and lie to me in order to prevent me from going out and doing what the schedule says grows.

The lie within the lie is that I won’t run. With sometimes greater debate and dread than others, I always end up on the road, iPhone in pocket, route memorized in my head, and Garmin on my wrist.

This past Friday’s run was a 12-miler turned 13 because I passed a turn around point in a short out-and-back in the route at about mile 8. That missed turn-around took on greater significance after the run when I was flush with the satisfaction of knowing I met a goal.

As any regular reader of this blog may know, I’ve grown obsessed with WTF, the podcast interview show of Marc Maron. Many times his shows are of a personal nature in relation to how he interacts with guest. In one show recently for example, alt-country singer Lucinda Williams delighted in how Marc’s interview style was like therapy and how she revealed more than what she meant to about herself, even though a friend warned that was Marc’s interviewing forte.

Marc Maron

Marc Maron (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Because of my obsession, I purchased the WTF premium app so I could listen to all of Marc’s earlier shows that he’s archived (Marc has done about 350 shows so far). One (episode 177) interview with Garry Shandling literally was quite therapeutic for Marc, and upon reflection after my run, a little therapeutic for me too.

In the episode Shandling talks about how his neuroses manifests in him.

“I sort of get indecisive about which things to do because I have this voice in my head that says you should do this or you should do that,” Shandling said. “These are thing things I’ve tried to rise above and still tackle the issue to be free to be exactly who I am.”

Shandling then transitions into speaking about his 11 year relationship with boxing that pushed him “out of my comfort zone completely” as a person who never fought his entire life.

The activity puts him “in the moment” when in the ring.

“The main reason is you don’t have time to think so it becomes completely intuitive,” Shandling said . . “ . . You can’t think about it and when you land a punch you can’t think about it.”

In turn Maron relates his own neuroses and release he finds on the stage performing comedy.

“It’s the only time I feel present, it’s the only time my reflexes take over and it’s the only time I feel open and myself,” Maron said.

English: Garry Shandling at the Night of Comed...

Shandling without a beat responded, “So, what I would say to that is, you should live like that.”

Maron agrees in the exchange with Shandling, adding, as he’s gotten older that he’s found he no longer has the time or the energy to beat the shit out of himself.

Shandling again responds brilliantly.

“You can’t win a welter weight belt for beating the shit out of yourself. “

So, okay, by this point I hope you know where this is going. I could not remember the above exchange directly. I had to go back and re-listen to the podcast I began earlier in the day before my long run, but sitting in my truck after it, well, the idea of living in the now when I run struck a minor cord.

The exchange though, initially glossed over as I listened driving to my start place grumbling at myself, took on deeper meaning and opened a new dimension of my appreciation for running.

Running distance is my boxing and my comedy. It’s pushing myself out of my comfort zone, being active when sedentary is my default position. (I was “husky” as a child, and no one would accuse any member of my family of being a skinny-minny.) When I begin, usually around mile three, something just clicks. Intuition and muscle memory take over. I’ll run past turn around points because I’m not thinking.

I know my immediate surroundings, am aware of form and pace, gauge speed and what I have left for the distance. There isn’t time to think. Not in that worrying, neurotic, beat myself up sort of way I so often find myself doing in relationships and with work.

Running hasn’t made me perfect, but it’s made me better at just living in the now, and focusing on the small incremental steps in front of me.

Damn, I do love me some WTF and gained a new appreciation for the Buddhist-like Garry Shandling and the zen art of running.

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