I run. Like this morning. I woke up at 6:30 which is sleeping in for me. After two quiet hours of drinking coffee, playing Candy Crush, eating breakfast, and watching TV, my energy finally built enough that I knew I was ready.
It was time to run.
I am training for a half-marathon. Because I think I can do it. And after doubting myself for years, doing this…this continual building of running…is rather–I don’t know–liberating? encouraging? I’m not certain what word I am seeking.
I pulled on my new running shoes, grabbed a quart of water and a couple of Cliff Bars (chocolate brownie…yum), and started running. I wanted to bring my iPod, but rain was expected all day and I didn’t want to chance destroying my iPod. I might have bought Apple-Care which is supposed to replace my iPod (even if it is water damage!), but I figured why tempt fate?
I stepped outside, walked down my front porch steps, and started running. As I ran the third of the mile out of my subdivision ,I was miserable. My allergy meds hadn’t kicked in yet and thick, gooey snot was constantly dribbling down my throat (sorry for the details, but such is the truth). And then, I found my stride and focused on my breathing and ignored the other signs of general misery. And I ran.
I ran along the road, crossed the road, and went to the neighborhood across the street. I slowly ran my way through an elongated circle, down a long hill, and past houses that lost any real semblance of individuality because the became nothing more than a blur that I ignored.
For long moments, I focused on where I was putting my feet, keeping an eye on my pace, staring at my feet that would quickly move in and out of my eyesight. For long moments, I stared at the asphalt that stretched forever in front of me until my feet swallowed up the distance and the miles shrank.
I focused on mailboxes that served as goals. I focused on the lines in the road or on the cars that seemed to be moving in erratic directions because people were moving out of my way or trying to make sure to give me distance.
I focused on hills that seemed impossible to beat until I ran across the crest, possibly stopped for a drink of water, and then ran down the other side, rejoicing in the ease of running downhill.
Eventually, I came off the backroads and to the main road on which the county has recently built a sidewalk, And for one long, beautiful mile, I was pushed along by the sweeps of engines and the contrail winds that swept behind the cars. I ran over a bridge that overlooked the little river for which the road on which I live is named. I ran up a hill that I never thought I could beat and ran to my gym.
Yup. I know that sounds weird. But that is exactly what I did. I ran to my gym. Because over the summer, I greedily watched the county trucks dig up the trench that would eventually hold the liquid concrete that would eventually become a sidewalk, a sense of liberty for me. I might love my car, but I don’t think that I really need to drive it everywhere.
And there was something intensely satisfying about running up to the gym door and then going to the desk to check in. My face was likely brilliant-red; my hair was slicked back from the rain and the sweat. I was a mess and felt a bit self-conscious which was quickly shoved aside by a sense of incredible pride.
I had run to the gym.
While I was there, I ran another mile. Because my goal for today was nine miles and I knew that the distance from my house to the gym was roughly four miles. And I didn’t want to just run in circles that would eventually calculate into the desired nine miles.
And there was something intensely satisfying about running a mile at the gym. Only a mile. It turns out that I should have run another third of a mile in order to hit the true nine mile mark…because the exact distance from my house to the gym was 3.85 miles…
But I don’t care. Because I ran my mile and ate my Cliff Bars at the gym so my body wouldn’t freak out and then called my family to tell them that I was on my way home.
And I stepped out of the gym’s doors and started running home, following the same path I had already followed. And it was hard. I am not going to lie. But I did it. I defeated another hill that I wondered if I would be able to beat. And I did it.
The last mile was hard. I’m not going to lie. By that point, the rain was falling a bit harder and I was really worn out and my hips, knees, and left ankle were aching. But I kept on pulling myself back into my mind and away from the pain and I focused on mail boxes and the texture of the pavement and the divots formed from where the gutter fed into the street. I focused on where my feet were falling and on the sound of my breathing and the feel of my heart pounding in my neck.
And I made my way back through the elongated circle and past the light-post that my children and I call “Narnia” and across the busy street that separates the neighborhoods and back the third of a mile of my neighborhood until I was back at my front porch, staring at my dog who was staring at me because I had left him behind.
Because I was running to the gym so I could run another mile.
Because he was too old to run nine miles with me. Or 7.67 miles to the gym and back because he would not be allowed in the gym because he is a dog but not a service dog which exempts him from any special status other than he is my dog and I love him.
So, what did I do while I ran in the rain? I lived within my skin that felt good around me. I inhabited a world in which I was both existentially aware of my body and was completely separated from my body as I allowed myself to fall into a pinwheel style of meditation. I celebrated small achievements and chugged water and stared at cars that passed me and hoped that my concentration didn’t give me an angry, threatening face. But I was breathing too hard to actually smile in a friendly way.
I love running. My husband is worried that I am going to destroy my knees. I know that I need to adjust my eating for long-distance running. I have felt a little off all day because I hadn’t eaten healthily enough over the week to give my body the stored nutrients to help me do this run.
But I will be researching tomorrow and will create a better regimen of food that will strengthen my body.
Because next week, I think I’m going to shoot for ten miles. I may or may not run to the gym. I might just walk through the familiar glass doors and find my favorite treadmill that is positioned beneath the fans, fill up my water bottles, turn on the machine and go. And go
And go some more.
Because in those miles, the distance between me and some of the mistakes I made in my past lengthen enough that the strings become frayed.
Some have snapped. Others are a bit stubborn.
But that’s why I bought new running shoes. Because I don’t know that I will be stopping any time soon.