The universe is really testing me!!
I was roughly mid-way through this post about how inspired running was making me feel these days when I decided to take a mental break from it for a few days. In that time, I had my longest run of my marathon training schedule. On my next run, I couldn’t make it half a mile. My foot was killing. Since then, I haven’t been able to run. I’m in the process of getting X-rays and MRIs. It may be a stress fracture or it could be nothing. My race is in less than two weeks and I’m not sure I’ll be able to run.
This got me thinking. What is it that makes me care so much about this?
I realized what running has given me more than anything: structure. It’s been my steady when nothing else seems to be constant, especially in college when things can feel so frantic. Freshman year, I ran with new friends as we talked about our transitions to school. I remember running really slowly that year, because everything else seemed to be changing too suddenly for us to keep up. We varied our runs a few times, but for the most part we stuck to what we knew in this new town. We learned about our new home through runs.
I remember the first time we discovered the trails that through farmland, and the swing that hangs from the tree. After that discovery, whenever my friends and I needed some peace of mind, we’d run there, and we’d find it. I still run with Nora; we discovered our friendship through running. We got into a habit of running and talking and talking and running more as early as the second week of college. Runs became therapy sessions and a chance to detoxify what was jumping around in our bodies and minds - clear it all out. With Maddy, it was the same thing. She helped me along as I prepared for my first marathon. We all soaked up the benefits of having this structure; we came to rely on it. Most of all, I love sharing the rewards of feeling so good afterwards. I remember a run in the spring where a group of us ran our long run along the bike path. Our final destination was a cute Italian restaurant a few towns over. Our endorphins that day were out of this world (and so was the pasta).
Morgan and I are both training for marathons this fall, so most of our Sunday mornings were spent mapping out routes for our long runs, preparing bags of figs & dates, and searching for hidden areas to go to the bathroom. Running to the Quabbin Reservoir was one of my favorites. The satisfaction of ending the run in such a beautiful place made the run that much more meaningful.
My brother Brian recently moved to France and it's definitely been a tough transition. He called me on the first day he was there, looking for some confirmation that he made the right choice to move. As we were hanging up (over an hour and a half later), I realized we hadn’t even touched on the topic of France. “Wait so, how are you doing?” I had to ask. We had spent the entire time talking about how much we loved running. We’re addicted.
One thing we talked about was how running represented freedom. A chance to work as hard as you’d like, run as far as desired. It’s up to you.
Running brings you to see sights that you may not have stumbled upon if a run wasn't on your agenda.
I recall a rainy run in cornfields this summer in upstate New York. When Brian ran an ultramarathon in Western New York this summer, I got the chance to run the last leg of it with him, along the Eerie canal. While visiting California this summer, a quick Google search of “best runs in Los Angeles” ended Jill and I at Elysian Park, where weaving in and out of trails brought us on a cliff overlooking the whole city. We couldn’t stop saying. “This is the closest thing to a Runner’s World Rave Run that I’ve ever experienced.” Just recently, when in Bar Harbor, I had a similar experience while running with friends. Rolling hills above lakes and oh my gosh, the foliage! I think of running as an adventurous friend who is always pushing you to seek new paths.
While running has connected me to so many people, it’s also brought a lot of clarity to my own thoughts. Some of the best runs I’ve had have been running with tears falling uncontrollably towards the pavement. Just a few weeks ago, I was having a really emotional day – ya know those days when you think about every relationship you’ve had with every person you’ve ever known, and how time is moving quickly and life is happening and you’re not ready and you’re overwhelmed and scared? – so I ran. I ran long and hard until I forgot where I was. I cried and I sprinted down hills and back up. I was shocked when I looked at my pace on my way home. And I felt empowered and ready, ready for whatever was to come.
So okay, I may not be able to run in a couple weeks. But I am trusting that the universe knows what’s best for me and nothing takes away from the fact that these last four months of training have been something really spectacular. They’ve put running in a new light for me and revitalized that spark. If anything, this little hiatus has made me so grateful for my general health and all the people that I've connected with through running. I know the situation I’m in is really not a big deal. I am already looking forward to the next time I can lace up my good ol’ Asics.