As I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord the souls to keep
Of all my peers who practice late…
I thank him that I didn’t wait.
I took this photo on a sunset run and added the words (surprise! They were not actually fabulous skywriting!) as I was doing some reading later. The exercise, combined with the wisdom of St. Hildegard, were a welcome relief to an emotional day.
Sometimes on overcast days like today, we fail to remember the sun. Yet, by grace, it descends to us each evening, casting its warm glow over the earth and tempering the darkness with the promise of its brilliant return come dawn.
What a marvelous image this is of the reality we know as Believers. (Plato has me on an image-reality thought trend.) As beautiful as sunsets are, they are a mere flicker of the splendor of the True Son who humbled Himself for us. Likewise, although we run in a darkened world, He has already risen with splendor beyond any sunrise…and, in Him, so shall we! We live in the purgatory between sunset and the sunrise, but our hope is more sure than the dawn. The race is not in vain, for the Lord gives us the wings to overcome; through His comfort, we can rest in the promise that joy comes not only in the morning, but through mourning.
Calling all runners and musicians!
Thanks to my music history class, I have of late become obsessed with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55, better known as the “Eroica Symphony.”
“Eroica” means “Heroic” in case you did not figure that out for yourself and this musical adventure is just that: heroic. It traces Beethoven’s personal development and victories over the trials of mortal life, as well as mirrors those of humanity as a whole. It might be considered a distilled version of the entire “triumph of the human spirit” genre…or perhaps even the epitome of this genre.
There are many ways to process a piece of art such as this: analyze it visually, internalize it through listening, taste it if you are brave and nobody is looking, etc. However, I firmly attest to the power of movement (no pun intended) when it comes to studying music. Often this leads me to dance around the practice room, but the incredible power and hero’s journey found in the Eroica is something beyond dancing awkwardly by myself.
It demands power. It demands perseverance. It demands running.
Are you a runner? Are you a musician? If you answered yes to either of these questions, I (and possibly Beethoven) challenge you to take on the Eroica 10k.
The Eroica 10k
(performed by Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic)
- Lace up your running shoes and turn up your music. As soon as the conductor’s baton strikes the first beat, you are off and away!
- The first movement is perfectly timed (about 16 minutes) so that you can complete two miles during it if you run at a steady 8 min/mile pace. This is fairly brisk, but it is possible if each step is in time with the beat! (Pro tip: Increase your stride length as the dynamics increase; this will add interval training and speed boosts.)
- The second movement is not as rapid; after all, it is more reminiscent of a funeral march. Slow your pace slightly and catch your breath, but continue to run in time and increase your stride during crescendos.
- The third movement provides a nice pick-me-up after the sombre second movement, during which I became oddly philosophical even whilst running. This movement, a “scherzo” (joke), is vibrant and quick. AND SO ARE YOU! Pick up speed, but allow your stride to stay short so that you do not overtax yourself.
- The fourth movement signals only about 2 miles left, depending on your average pace. You’re almost there and the humor of this opening is sure to put some bounce back into your step. Don’t fight this; instead, allow your stride to be more bouncy as it will actually help energize you through the remaining distance.
- Continue to increase your stride length as the music builds, returning to a comfortable pace as it settles down again.
- The ending of the symphony will surprise you with its drama and inspire you to finish strong. If you have the urge to conduct while you run, go right ahead. Who cares if the soccer players give you weird looks as you conduct dramatic cadences? You are a runner and a musician and you deserve to add a little flare to the end of your workout! Now sprint!
- As the symphony ends, check your distance. If you still have a lap or two to go, never fear! Turn on some light music and run in the spirit of Nike! (Not the shoes…the goddess of victory. But by all means, the shoes are wonderful too.)
- Congratulations! You ran an entire 10k and reached a deeper appreciation of Beethoven’s most renowned symphony within the same hour!
Do you feel heroic? You ought to! 6.213… miles (a 10k) is something to be proud of, especially at Beethoven’s relentless pace! Both this symphony and running are exercises in overcoming life’s obstacles, as well as celebrating personal victories; they are both heroic journeys.
I sincerely hope that you enjoy this experience as much as I did, for it served my development both as a musician and an athlete.
How painful in cruel irony…
That you, though sighted, cannot see:
Deafness- not pride- is Beethoven’s malady.
This “unlicked bearcub” of a child
Was born spirited and wild,
Yet yearned to love, kind and mild.
But those called to the highest aims
Are ne’er allowed to stay the same:
Both blessing and curse shall raise a name.
Torn ‘tween the two he yet did know
That despite the silent, awful blow,
The call of Art he was destined to follow.
The Muse and Virtue spurred him on;
This lifesong born and bred in Bonn
Would never, though softened, fade as gone.
Tired eyes shall ruin writers
And fear mute the tongues of singers.
But these who quit are amateurs
For trials train the masters.
Art’s best servants are the ones
Who fight to finish work begun.
These faithful press onward through life
To create art out of their strife.