It’s National Running Day. Friday is National Donut Day. I don’t know if they planned to have them in the same week, but it makes sense. Why not follow up a running celebration with a sugary treat day? That’s kind of what runners do. One of the worst things you can do to your body after a run is drink alcohol, and almost every race ends with beer. We don’t always make sense, us runners. I was emailing a man on Match.com a year or so ago, and I told him I was a runner. He emailed me back with a curt response about runners. He had just broken up with one. “You runner types are pretty weird,” he said. He wasn’t interested. Well, of course, my red-headed temper fired back a response about how there were runners of all kinds of different types, and just because he was still bitter because some runner dumped him, he didn’t need to dump on me. Good riddance.
My running coach posted about National Running Day and asked what running has brought to those of us she tagged. It’s hard to separate my life from running these days. It’s woven into my week like going to work and walking the dog. My dog runs with me, so it’s a big part of our relationship. Jessica, my coach, says she has a relationship with running. I’d have to agree with that description. Running is one of those things I’m either doing or I’m not doing. I’m loving it, or I’m hating it. I’m giving it the appropriate attention, or I’m slacking off. I’m valuing it by eating right and resting or I’m not valuing it by not doing the things I need to do to make the relationship successful. And, sometimes I cheat on running. I hide the fact that I’m not running from my coach. I blatantly refuse to do it. I pretend I’m going out for a run, but I’m really not into it, and I know I’ll be walking. Other times, I love it and would never want to do anything else.
Running, of course, has helped me stay in good health. I ran early in life and quit for 20 something years. I’ve been back at it approximately 10 years. My health is better now than I ever remember. My weight has remained stable even though my eating hasn’t. I eat better now than I did 10 years ago. If I binge, I don’t do it so crazily. I rest and sleep more. Knock on wood, I haven’t had any running injuries even though I’ve run 3 full marathons and 15 half marathons. My mental health is better because of running. Running got me out of the grief cycle at the end of my second marriage. Training for a half marathon and then a full gave me a focus on something other than my life. It took my attention away from the giant hole in my life and gave me back a huge life accomplishment. It gave my weekends – which were long and empty for quite awhile – a rhythm and a purpose. For a year, running was my guide. All it demanded was consistency and focus. And, I gave into it fully.
Running is my teacher. It has taught me to be gentle with myself and to listen to my body. Doing so doesn’t end my relationship with running. It just changes it. That’s a valuable lesson for me to accept in life. I don’t always have to be hard-core to be okay. I can cut back with intention and still be a good person … still be a runner. Training for a marathon taught me to stop giving into pain. It taught me the different between pain that is good for my development and pain that is not. It takes a long time to train for a marathon. It’s not a sprint. So, it taught me about consistency and the dedication it takes to meet a giant goal like running 26.2 miles. It taught me that it’s more fun to share pain with others. And, it’s more fun to celebrate with others. Most of all, it taught me that I can do whatever I want to do within reason. I will never be fast, but I can adjust my goals and my expectations to suit my body type, my time commitment and my desires. I am not invincible in running nor am I invincible in life. Some things are just not good for me. It’s taught me to say I can’t do this or I’m not willing to put in the time and effort and pain. Running can be a humbling experience when I touch my edge.
Running has given me a reason to travel, and it’s helped me build a community of like-minded people. I go to retreats that are not necessarily running-related, but I end up meeting runners, and we bond. We meet up for races, and we stay in touch. We support each other in our training. I’ve met people who inspired me to keep going, and I’ve inspired others to start running. It’s a mutual admiration society because we know how hard that relationship is to handle. People who don’t run probably think that I love running, and I’ve had them say to me that they wished they liked to run. I don’t know that I can always say that I love running. Sometimes I hate it. Most days, I’d rather blog …. or drink tea … or hang out with friends. But, running is a demanding and exquisite lover. Good sex is hard to come by. Many times, it’s just a romp in the hay. But, when you have really good sex, it’s memorable, and it keeps you coming back to attempt to duplicate an impossible to duplicate experience. A good run is like that. They are not always good. But, there are enough great ones that it keeps me coming back for more. You never know which one is going to be phenomenal.
I have so many great runs that I can remember. In Indiana, I trained along the shores of Lake Michigan in all seasons. I had a course that ran along the lake and through downtown St. Joseph. I ran countless times through the National Lakeshore in Northwest Indiana. That route took me through marsh and then ended up circling around by the beach. I remember one hot summer day – not as hot as a Memphis hot summer day – after a run. I was hot and tired. I walked down to the lake and jumped in completely decked out in my running clothes. The cold Lake Michigan water was an elixir for me. I swam around for awhile and devoured that great post-run feeling. In Memphis, I love running through downtown and playing tourist. I love running by the river and soaking in the energy from the Great Mississippi River. There is history there. As I’m running, I feel ancient stories soaking up through my veins, and I feel connected with long ago travelers who used the Mississippi as a means to change their environment. I’ll be running there tonight. I’ve chosen that route to celebrate National Running Day. I can’t wait. I need to feel the love. Come on baby, just give me one more kiss. I want to feel your sweet embrace.