An old friend wrote to me today and said that my running was an inspiration to her and she was going to get out there and just do it. Since I have run out of time and must write my daily blog, below is an essay I wrote a year before I was diagnosed and explains why I love to run. Hopefully it will inspire my old and new friends to get out there:
Upon turning 40, I did two things. I started writing and I signed myself up to do a sprint triathlon. Two accomplishments I had always wanted to obtain. Two goals to take my mind off the inevitable march of time; one to tune my mind, the other to tune my body. Training for the triathlon was daunting. I knew I could bike, this I have done all my life. The swimming was something I had to contend with and I am still, 3 triathlons later, trying to master. Running, I hated. For many reasons, one is a bladder control issue that after 3 children just, as they say, “happens” to some women. I had tried in years past to run instead of going to the gym. Usually after my husband complained of the fees I was paying to go work out. But running never lasted.
Oddly enough, 3 years later, I have become a runner. I love to run. It’s free and quick. It allows me to eat cookies –lots of cookies, guilt free. What started as a bet to myself, a challenge to say I did it, has turned into an obsession. When I run, I reflect. I ponder all the problems that have started to become overwhelming. Most days, I walk a tightrope of sanity. Running is the Velcro that secures my sneakers to that rope. It helps me avoid the tumble into the abyss of insecurity and paranoia that waits to swallow me. While I run, my head gets cleared of all the negative thoughts about my friends and my family. It allows me the time alone with my feelings to understand that life can be hard but that there is so much to appreciate as well.
With each step, I replay the fight I had with my 12 year old son. I scroll through it in my head like a movie scene editor and realize that maybe I was overreacting to the situation. I make a mental note to apologize when he gets home from school.
As I jog by a broken down brown 2-family for sale, I imagine that my husband and I buy the duplex and live side by side as amicable divorcees. That way the kids could see us both all the time. On some days, while I lope along, I piece together the particulars of a friendly separation with visitation, and on others I imagine my husband and I together through retirement and old age.
My mind turns to a fight I had with my friend yesterday. It was a trivial matter we fought about, but there was definitely some underlying tension. Or am I being paranoid? I try to understand why we are not connecting these days. I decide to call her later and ask her to the movies. As my thighs start to burn and the sweat begins to collect at the base of my neck, I turn up my I-pod and sprint along the straightaway of Summer Ave. A beautifully wide, tree-lined street with large Victorians that rest far back on meticulously cut lawns.
Some days as I run through the streets of my suburban town, I list my blessings, as my mother always tells me to do. I have 3 beautiful and healthy children, a house, a family, some truly supportive friends, and my own health, which without; would make running impossible. My feet and knees are still intact so I am lucky in that respect. This feeling of thankfulness particularly happens on cool crisp fall morning runs. Although I now run year round, it’s the fall days that bring my spirit back. The late morning sun warms my back while a brisk breeze cools my face. There is nothing like jogging through newly fallen leaves and inhaling the smell of burning wood to make you appreciate the seasons and remind you why you live in New England.
Running can seem somewhat voyeuristic. When I run at suppertime, the smells give away secrets. The folks in the white Colonial are having roast beef, the English Tudor –spaghetti. Sometimes I can picture them eating and imagine their lives and invent stories that I can use someday. In winter, I often must run in the dark of the early evening. Then I can actually see inside the houses, my neighbors moving about in their curtain less sanctuaries, unaware that I am watching.
I am always relieved to see the bridge, once I am over that I can see my own house at the peak of the hill. I am usually tempted to walk the remainder of the way but I force myself to keep moving my lead filled legs for the last stretch. When my run is finished, often I have worked through a story or a poem in my head; so I immediately sit at my computer and write it down or scribble some notes to finish at a later date, or type out my feelings previously buried too deep for retrieval. I am tired and sweating and exhilarated. Even though my legs are burning, my lungs hurt and my back aches; my head has been cleared. And I don’t need my body to write. All I need is a clear mind and an idea. Running gives me both.