Friday, May 2, 2014

Keep Going

     There was nothing remarkable about the Tuesday afternoon I decided to run again. Like most days, there were crumbs all over the kitchen floor, dishes piled in the sink, unanswered emails in my inbox, no available babysitter, and no dinner plans. I had made no resolutions. I wasn't going to begin training for a marathon or half-marathon, or even a 5K. I knew that running wasn't going to magically melt away those ten pounds I've been wanting to shed — not to mention that the cool, crisp weather we'd had over the winter and into the spring was gone. It was hot and muggy, with no shade to be found.

       I knew it was going to hurt, too. It'd been five months since my last run, my half-marathon in November, which was when I abandoned my marathon training in favor of holidays with the family, a couple of good books, and binge sessions of Netflix series.

      I chose the Pinellas Trail, which is where I've run most often. At first, the run was surprisingly easy. Nothing throbbed, and my breath was regular. I even took notice of a monarch butterfly winding its way through the Brazilian pepper. Soon enough, though, I felt sweat trickling down my back and temples. I struggled to catch my breath, and my throat felt raw. A stabbing pain in my left leg shot from my knee to my hip with each jolting stride. My shoulders knotted from the tension brought on by my unpracticed form. 

      All I could think, when I could think, was keep going. Just keep going. Somehow I fought through it, and even though my body was telling me to stop, I didn't. "Keep going" was my mantra. The repetitive thump of each footfall became the rhythm of my chant. I finished my three miles, not an inch farther, and was relieved and exhilarated. 
      The best part is that I've run twice more since then. My pace picked up by my second run, which I ran at 29:26, before slowing down a bit more on my third run. None of the days that I ran were easier than any other. There were no golden opportunities. I was as tired and stressed and hungry as I always am. Each time I finished a run, though, I felt the same relief and exhilaration.

      I won't always feel like running. I may sign up for other races and not follow through. Sometimes I will prioritize reality television over a run, or I’ll choose to stay in bed rather than run. I know this about myself. But what I feel, at least at this moment, is that running is something that I need, if not for my health, then for the focused effort and the meditative quality of the activity itself. So it might be premature, but I’ll go ahead and say it: it’s good to be back.

First run back after five months

Third run