In the spring of 2012 I started having dreams that I was running. They were fun and floaty and definitely recurring. One cold day that spring, after feeling particularly pissy, I strapped on some weathered tennis shoes, long johns under faded yoga pants, a heavy winter coat and I ran. I hadn’t run since 2001 when I fell in love with (and bought) a wedding dress that was 2 sizes too small for me.
I think I only made it a mile that day. Actually, I may have only made it 500 yards before walking. But since then, I run. I run haphazardly. I run messy. I do not train properly. I do not run for weight loss or muscle gain. I run for stress relief. I run to music because it makes me feel like I’m in a music video. I don’t call myself a runner. But I run enough to say I run.
I find myself signing up for a few organized runs. They hold me accountable and help me set goals. They give me a sense of team I was never on before. I never thought myself competitive, but I find myself pushing to pass the person in front of me. To shake the one breathing behind me. Of course, this all goes down in the mid-to-back section of the pack. The winner is already calmly eating orange slices and shooting the shit with race organizers by the time I plan my big move to overtake the elderly woman in Converse high tops. But oh, it’s on Converse High Tops, it’s on. You best shuffle aside.
Actually, it always amazes me who I can pass. And it amazes me who passes me. Incidentally, weight, body shape and amount of shiny, expensive gear are not always true indicators of genuine fitness.
I find myself, for the first time in our lives, running with my sister. I still feel the one-sided sibling rivalry (created completely by me) as my sister yaps away chirpily on our trail runs while I silently question if she’d finish her run before calling Medflight to lift me out of her back forty after my imminent cardiac arrest. Why I’m even surprised she’s doing so well after a long running hiatus surprises me. She did, after all, go to state with the high school track team. I was in it for the gossip and the Jello powder straight out of the packet for “quick energy”. Needless to say, I lasted one season.
I have never been disciplined at any sport. Even now, I do not often feel like I am actually running. Most of the times I feel like I am heaving, lurching, plodding, clodhopping, huffing, puffing and truly struggling. Most of the time I am reminding myself that the sensation I seek comes after the run, not during it.
But there’s always the moment. A sense of flying. A moment, even more, of crystal clear focus on the road or scenery or my breath, and I feel IT. A runner’s high, a sense of pride, a physiological reaction, I don’t care to analyze IT. IT is why I run. IT brings me back. IT makes me a better mom, wife, sister, co-worker. IT makes me a better human being.
Cliche, I know, but true. Take it from someone who used to run solely for Jello powder. I’ve never had IT before and now I do.
IT is that moment where I am pleased at what I CAN do. IT brings me confidence. It brings me pride, not envy, when my sister breaks away on the trail run to challenge herself. I don’t want her to hold my hand. I want her to place in her age group. She is not my competition, she is my role model.
And what’s this? Trail running? Fear of hills, tree roots and holes instead of speeding cars and icky, rusty vans with tinted windows? Running in nature, the only place where I actually feel religion? I feel more trail running in my future.
I’d like to hear if you ever feel IT with any activity. How do you keep IT going?