I’ve been running off and on for a good part of my life. The first time I had running shoes, I started running to and from the library, instead of walking or taking the bus.
When life was chaos for those years in late middle school and early high school, I barely remember running. In mid- and late- high school, I remember running a bit more for school. A mile or two here or there. I was one second away from the mile record. The guy who got in was in the same race, we had been running together the whole way, constantly pushing each other. He stopped pushing me and went for it. We both collapsed on the floor of the gym after.
My first year of college I ran the indoor track at the rec center on maybe seven occasions. My second year of college I ran a bit with a friend, around the track by the old, unused, football field on our campus. My junior year I ran a handful, mostly around campus late at night as a way to get out of my room, to get away from the stress and challenges I faced that year – it is one of my favorite years of college, but also one that challenged me and pushed me a lot more than I ever expected. My senior year I transitioned to the elliptical and did that a lot more than I ran, though there was about a month of running in there.
In graduate school, I ran off and on my first year – whenever I could get to the rec center and run on a treadmill. That was dull and challenging. During my summer internship, every day I walked up a hill to get to work. After walking down the hill, I always ran two miles after work in their beautiful recreation center. That summer I was more fit than I have been since I almost got the record at my high school.
My second year of graduate school, I consistently ran about a mile – some days even one and a half or two miles. It was more difficult during the winter – it got so cold that by the time I was home, I did not want to do anything else but sit on my couch under a blanket.
My running has been in fits and starts, at some times more consistent than others, on some occasions more regular, more helpful, more stabilizing. In stress and transitions – the easiest times to skip running – I find running to be more helpful..
So far this year, my running his been rare and infrequent. Recently I was thinking about a conversation I had with a friend recently who said “how can you not run all the time?”
With that, and some slight guilt about not working towards meeting my goals, I laced up my running shoes and went for a run in Washington Park one recent Saturday, intending to make it my first serious run of the year.. The beginning was treacherous. The beginning of that run is almost always treacherous. It’s uphill for over the first half, if I do a two-mile run, and more uphill if I run more. In fact, the longer I run, the greater percentage the uphill is.
That day I ran a 5k. Not like, an official race, but the distance. Moving up the stairs at the beginning of the stairs made my legs feel like lead, and my lungs burned. Past that first part, I started to feel better. My times were not incredible, but I guess what matters is that I ran. I ran 3.11 miles, and was able to feel pride in my run. I ran again a week later, and again a few days later. My runs have been gaining steam, and they have all been 3.11 miles since then. My legs still feel like lead, and a couple days after one run I still felt physically exhausted.
Running has taught me so much about so many things. When I lived in Oklahoma, running was a physical reminder of the pain I was feeling internally, and a lesson in the importance of persistence. I continued because it was what I needed to do to reach my goal – a masters degree in one case, and the ability to run more than a mile at a time in the other. Some runs are awful. Just terrible. Maybe I did not meet my previous time or I did not run as far as I wanted or there is some pain after. But some runs are so incredibly easy, after I finish running I wonder if I should try doing it again. My energy is flowing and I am excited.
I am hoping to run a few official 5k’s this year, and maybe even make it up to a 10k or a half-marathon. Because goals are important, and running has changed the way I look at the world, running has saved me when I had no hope, and running has given me a physical outlet.