Today I ran. It’d been nearly a month since I ran outside and six more months since I ran five miles. But. Today I ran. Five miles. Today I ran five miles. And it felt fantastic – when I was done. During the five miles, it went from pure joy to self doubt to torture to regret to pride to self doubt to regret to holyfuckingshit, I ran five miles.
It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t pretty. But it was needed. After a three-day pity party complete with a cocktail of pain meds, muscle relaxers and rest, I realized running is my first athletic love – more than tennis and cross training. Those endorphins that (eventually) get released when you run take you through the mental roller coaster laid out above. But they leave you with a sense of accomplishment not found anywhere else.
My sister-in-law and I discussed doing another race – a 5k and 15k that’s in about six weeks. The 5k would be a no-brainer for me – even with the limited running I do, I can push through a 5k in about 30 minutes. But the 15k – nearly 10 miles – that would be a real challenge, something I really wanted. I talked to a co-worker, an avid running always scouring the web for her next half marathon. If she’d do the 15k, I’d do it with her. And wouldn’t you know it – she agreed to do it. That’s when I scoured the web for a training program that would help me manage the challenge. Counting the weeks led me to see I’d need to run five miles today – and add miles every weekend – just to catch up to the training program.
I mildly doubted myself; mildly because I know this body. At 42, it can take be pushed and will recover – plus there’s still an ample supply of muscle relaxers. Reverting to my glory days of running, I mapped a route that included hills (up and down) and hit the road. Just the same as my glory days of running, music filled my ears and the pre-planned route was abandoned for a bigger challenge. One hill brought me to tears and other forced me to walk quickly/run slowly.
Today I remember why I love running. The post-run ritual of taking a full glass of water and a towel out to the back put a cap on the adventure. Stretching and rehydrating were followed by praising this body and thanking the universe for the abundant athletic ability it’s bestowed upon me. I apologized profusely to both for not being good care takers of the gifts.
Running isn’t about one foot in front of the other – and having a pocket full of witty comebacks when people say stupid shit like “I’d only run if a bear was chasing me” – it’s about pride and humility; challenge and accomplishment. Yeah, it’s horrible. Once you get past that – once you allow yourself to believe that it’s actually awesome - you'll discover that it really is awesome.
Tomorrow I’ll be sore – I’ll ache and need water. I’ll take some pain relievers and a hot bath – and soak in them both. I’ll also soak in the glory that running brings. You see, once you run a few miles (or a few more than that), a sense of accomplishment follows you everywhere you go. It’s not like a bear – you can’t out run it. You run toward it. So run to it. Run toward the amazingness that it brings. Today. Run today. Once you navigate the mental roller coaster, you’ll end up farther ahead than you ever imagined.