Taking cues from the tortoise

My morning runs always end in cresting a gentle hill (which feels positively mountainous at that point). Running isn’t always fun for me, but it is joyful: an invitation to move unbridled, a steady rhythm, a synchronization of breath and body.

Like many runners others I know, though, running can dislodge a bracing internal dialogue: how much farther can I go? Do I have time to trace another loop around Trout Lake before work starts? Can I push my pace for the last few minutes instead of cooling down? Where is the line between a positive challenge and a misplaced chase for betterment?

Luckily, my East Vancouver neighbourhood is ridden with friendly signs to slow down: to find space in my movement, thoughts, expectations. As I round the corner to meet the final ascent homeward, I’m greeted by a rainbow-painted turtle, followed by a series of weather-worn signs.

Slow down, said the turtle.

At intervals, they read: slower, slower, slower.

These days, when the urge to push, to strive, to constantly pursue self-improvement is strong, I think it’s important to seek symbols to slow down — and to follow them. There is value is pausing, taking an extra-deep breath, listening to the quieter voice that says “don’t try so hard: you’re on the right track”.

My running watch splits suggest I’m on the right track: slow, faster, a bit faster, slow again (a break to take photos of whispering North Shore mountains), faster, a burst of speed, then glorious deceleration.

Peak leaf gradient in East Vancouver.

As I slow to a grateful walk, my shining eyes meet the turtle’s gaze and I nod a thank you: for encouraging the pause, for being my steadfast pacer, for marking my path home.

Writing from beautiful Vancouver about muddling through via intuitive movement 🤸🏽‍♀️ place-based learning 🌳 strong coffee ☕️ creative connection✨