This month, Runner’s World features a story called “The Love of My Life” by Marc Parent. It is, of course, about running. My running coach and soulmate Jessica has always said she has a relationship with running. It made me think about my own relationship with running that has – over the years – become more complicated and much more committed.
I remember when Parent started running. I was a new runner, and he wrote a series that began with him lacing up his running shoes for the first time. He was overweight, out of breath and not necessarily inclined to make running a habit. Every month I couldn’t wait for his dose of humor that more often than not mirrored my own path with running. I remember feeling like a kindred spirit as I watched him do his first 5K, half-marathon and then the beast – the full. I also remember when I started to wonder if he would stop writing the Newbie Chronicles as it was obvious he was a full-fledged, card-carrying runner.
I’ve been running fairly steadily since 2003. In fact, my first short runs were run in February of 2003 on snowy roads in frigid temperatures about 3 miles from where I sit. My ex subscribed to Runner’s World, and I got hooked on the magazine. I had been a runner in my college days but had long since given up the ghost. I finally decided I was going to run when I read a piece about a 60-year-old woman who ran her first marathon. If that old woman can do it, so can I!
My path has had its ups and downs. I got in shape that February by running short intervals that got longer each run. I ran my first non-stop 30 minutes on a path in Maui on vacation that year. A 5K race in 2004 still stands as my 5K personal record. After a move to Memphis in 2006 and a failed attempt at training for a marathon, I sort of gave up on running. I was getting divorced, there was a lot of stress and my body seemed to hate running.
But my love for running haunted me. I longed to be out on a beautiful day, and I hungered for that exhausted feeling after a good effort. A post-divorce depression intensified, and I sought out help from an acupuncturist. The acupuncture sparked my energy, and I started to run again. Luckily for me I found an amazing group called Memphis in Motion, and that is where I trained for my first full marathon surrounded by like-minded and tenacious beginner runners. I was introduced to the run/walk method which transformed my relationship with running.
I’ve been fairly consistent with running since then except for a hiatus in Louisiana. I kept getting injured, and I finally just quit for awhile. It was too hot. I didn’t enjoy it there, and I could never find a running group that worked. Looking back, I think I was under a lot of stress, and, given the fact that my body hated running when I was going through my divorce, running may not work for me when I’m in extreme stress. That’s okay. I now know the problem, and I can work with that.
Once again last year I longed for the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and I hired Jessica to slowly coach me back to running the 5K distance. I took it long and slow, and, with her guidance and support, I got back in the game. I started signing up for 5ks once a month, and since August I’ve only missed December. The winter admittedly is causing me issues, but I’m persevering. I plan to run today. I’m allowing myself to keep it short and to dress as warm as I like, but I’m going to get out. Spring awaits, and before you know it, I can run swiftly – for me – on roads unencumbered by ice and snow. This spring, like many before, will include running through the daffodils.
Now that I’m pretty close to that “old woman’s” age, I appreciate the fact that I’ve chosen running as my drug of choice. It has prevented depression, given me reason to vacation, provided a means of touring new places and is a veritable fountain of youth. I know the hunger of not running, and I know the exhilaration of completing a marathon. Running is a gift that keeps on giving. It teaches me about perseverance and commitment and defeat. And while it is a backdrop in the drama I call my life, running gives me wings.