I LOVE RUNNING.
Ten years ago, I would not have ever thought I would be someone who could say that and mean it, unless perhaps it was followed by - "out to the store to buy ice cream, alcohol or both." But somehow, and over a long period of time, I have become a runner. And I can say that now and love it and believe it.
Initially, I guess I started running as part of a fitness regime. I'd do laps around this creepy little indoor track they had that ran around the upper level of the YMCA in Rochester, NY. I think it was something like 24 laps around = 1 mile. You can imagine how exciting that became. When I moved back down to NJ, I took my running to the local high school track.
Anyone else remember those dreadful spring days as a high school student? When they dragged us out - once a year - and made us "Run The Mile"? Absolutely no training for it. Nothing to compare it to, aside from the previous year's humiliating time. Do you know that THEY STILL MAKE KIDS DO THIS TODAY?! Let's just say I was not the stellar athlete you might think. I usually prided myself on being the only kid in class to take the full 42-minute period to crawl my four laps. My gym teacher despised me. But I digress...
Being back on that track as an adult was humbling. When I actually ran an entire lap without stopping, I almost cried. And so it began.
I started running routes around my town, alternating days on the treadmill. The treadmill is a good tool for crappy weather, but it takes away the very best part of running: the meditation. After my body figured out its natural gait and I realized that the discomfort fades, I became aware of my ability to kind of just 'lose myself' in my head. Body on autopilot - lungs filling my blood with oxygen - feet hitting pavement, leaving pavement.
It's truly hypnotic. It's healing. I do my very best thinking while out on a run. Sometimes I will be so caught up in my head that I will have no recollection of how I end up where I do - the miles and scenery just a backdrop to my thoughts.
I never ran with music until this summer, when I started to train for my first big race. Until then, the longest one I'd done was a 5-mile boardwalk run at the NJ shore. I did tons of local 5Ks, but really wanted to challenge myself. So I registered for the inaugural half-marathon in Rochester, NY [significant and all, right?] I followed Hal Higdon's training program to the tee, and realized that running lost a little something when it became something I HAD to do. But I pressed on. I bought an iPod Shuffle and it got me through the weekend long runs.
The half marathon went amazingly well. Better than I could have ever imagined. I planned to take a week off from running, but found I could only go about 4 days til I was itching to get back out there. Something about being done with the training made me sad - like I'd lost a little part of me. It was hard to make that transition back to running for the sake of running.
But I got there. And today - the 40 degree weather a gift in the middle of January - was a fine day for running. Out there on a Sunday morning, before the rest of the world rolled out of bed - just me and my head. Two old friends spending some quality time together. And I say again -- Life is Good.