Running the Bend

The Esopus Bend

The Esopus Bend

“Running the Bend” has a double meaning for me. The Esopus Bend, in my home state of New York, is, and probably always will be, my favorite running trail. I love its obscurity; the trail twists sharply throughout its length, keeping steep inclines and declines out of sight until just before you hit them. The best way to run this trail is with a mind set on continual forward motion, in-the-moment awareness and response.

A more important, personal meaning to this phrase, however, is this:

Life presents us with a series of “bends”–blind turns on the straight road of our status quo.

In my experience, both literal and figurative bends are best approached with boldness, commitment, and a full-out, hard-charging run.

Bends come in lots of different forms. Some bends reveal positive outcomes–new opportunities, serendipitous meetings, personal-Everest-level challenges. Some, though, are negative–scary, hard, maybe sad life changes we didn’t anticipate and don’t want. But bends don’t go away, and there’s no good way to go around them. Regardless of how formidable any given bend may be, it’s there, in the middle of your path, and you’re going to have to get through it.

Stalling at a bend is never a good idea. For one thing, you lose your momentum. This is as bad with metaphorical bends as it is with literal bends. It’s much harder to take a challenging hill if you stop and deliberate in front of it rather than capitalizing on the force of your existing motion.

For another, if it’s a good bend, fearful hesitation might rob you of an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On the other hand, if it’s a bad bend, standing still in front of it, worrying and stressing out about facing it, just makes a potentially bad situation worse by allowing it to stagnate and fester. Not to mention the very bad things negative anticipation does to your mind and body (hello, cortisol).

I’ll be honest. It’s my nature to entertain dread. (My mom likes to point out that I’m a “Wednesday’s child,” and therefore “full of woe.” Whatever, Mom.) Because of this, I have to fight hard against my predilection for stalling, procrastinating, and spending enormous amounts of energy and other resources trying to find alternative routes to particular bends. But what I’ve learned over the years is that the best way to take a bend is just to keep going, to run, no matter how dreadful or uncomfortable or outright terrifying.

This practice works for two reasons: if the path is a bad one, you travel it quicker and with less drama if you just push on.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” ~ Winston Churchill

If the path is a good one, hooray! You’re on it! Celebrate by remembering how your courage paid off.

Cutting out negative anticipation and hemming and hawing is very liberating, and I’ve yet to regret it. So I’ll keep running the bend. I hope you will too.

What does “running the bend” mean for you? Which looming bend will you tackle at a run?

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