I started running, for fun, about 2.5 years ago.
My main motivation behind beginning to run was to lose weight. I had some lbs. to shed, and since running guaranteed maximum calorie burn, I was eager to begin. I started slowly, just running until I felt tired, then turning around and running home. Each run, I tried to challenge myself a little more. Try to run a little faster, a little farther, try not to think about how much my lungs burned. In the beginning I ran about 1.5-2 miles 4 times per week. I looked forward to my runs because I felt that each time I went out there, even if it was just one step further or one second faster, I was improving. As the pounds began to melt away, I realized that running gave me so much that tone legs and a whittled midsection. So much to look forward to–a chance to make goals and achieve them, a new body I loved, and time to myself to clear my mind. I wasn’t particularly fast, but none of that mattered. Running was a solo sport that provided me with more than I ever could have imagined.
It was also a cheap sport, initially. I needed sneakers and a sports bra, the rest I had laying around. I didn’t have fancy gadgets, just me and the trails. I found myself while my feet hit the gravel, my breath giving my stride rhythm, my head and heart clear and open.
I entered a race about 2 months after I started running, a local 5K. Dan came and cheered me on, where I pushed myself farther and faster than I ever had before. Something inside me knew I could do better, knew that I could run a little faster next time and so I decided to race a little more. Just one or two here or there, challenging myself to go farther and faster, beaming each time I crossed the finish line. Since I ran smaller races (or maybe I was faster than I give myself credit for), I was able to place first in my age group in both a 5K and 10K, and I was proud that I had committed myself to something that I challenged myself to get better at every single day.
I started to read about mile splits, subscribe to magazines devoted to running, talk about what sort of sport beans I preferred for my long runs, and purchased a Garmin so I could accurately measure my speed and distance. I committed myself to everything running. I checked blogs before I went to work and stared at pace calculators until my eyes got blurry.
In short, I became a slave to what I had once loved. I began to dread my long runs, longing to just run with no pace in mind, no mileage that I had to achieve. Still, I carried on, signing up for a half marathon with my sister. I felt that I had to run a half. It’s weird to write that, because no one ever told me that. No one said “Hey Marcella, you’d be a real runner if you ran further.” Yet there I was, with a watch that measured each stride, beating myself up if I wasn’t fast enough or efficient enough. It was a love hate relationship that left me feeling empty inside.
I had no idea what I was doing, or why I was doing it. I felt a sickening competition every time I read about running. I felt like I would never live up to the marathon/triathalon/long run training I read about on runners blogs. I envied their ice baths after 20 milers, but had no idea why. I was obsessed and consumed with a desire to be someone I was not.
I persevered though, training for my half through a cold and dreary New Jersey winter. I was proud that I stuck to training, and enjoyed most of my runs, but something about them felt so…empty. I don’t know if it was the miles I didn’t like, or if I just felt like no matter what I ran, I would never be good enough. It wasn’t one thing or another, but my heart was no longer with me. I couldn’t find my joy.
After months of training, Sara and I ran our half together
and I vowed to never run again.
The race was everything my training and moods had predicted. I cried, tried to quit several times, and ran with absolutely no ambition. I wasn’t running for myself, I was running to fulfill some sort of vision of myself that didn’t have to exist, I just didn’t know it at the time.
After the race, I took a break. I needed to “recover”, and recover I did. Days turned into weeks into months as I let my body and spirit go soft. Each time I wanted to run, felt the itch or urge, so many things held me back. I was mainly afraid to fail. I was afraid I wouldn’t have any of my stamina (an accurate belief) and I would feel the same things I felt during my race and training runs. That no matter what I did, how fast I ran, how far I ran, I would never be a real runner.
As time went on, and the endorphins stopped flowing, I found myself slipping into a depression I had managed to control for many years. My anxiety reared it’s ugly head but I just couldn’t get past my own mental battle.
It’s been some time since I regularly committed to running. Since I woke up early, rubbed my eyes, splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth and stumbled out the door, waking up in my early miles, drinking in the cool crisp air and stillness of a morning untouched by anyone else. The pride I would feel having logged miles before many people had their first cup of coffee. It launched me into and through the day, that feeling, and touched every aspect of my life.
Yesterday morning, as I walked to grab coffee and eggs, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. The smell, the stillness, the ever so slight chill in the air with the promise of a sunny clear day still to be had.
So this morning, for the first time in too long, I slipped out of bed, rubbed my eyes, splashed water on my face and brushed my teeth. I clumsily laced up my sneakers and found some running clothes that (thankfully) still fit, and hit the streets of town alone.
It wasn’t pretty. It was huffy and puffy. My legs strained and parts of me that never used to jiggle made themselves known. I don’t know how far I went, or how fast, but for now that’s probably best.
I commend and envy people who train, challenge themselves, run half and full marathons, complete in triathalons and ironmans. I think they are AMAZING.
But I’m not them.
And that’s ok.