Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Love/ Hate Relationship with Running

The alarm goes off at 6 am… on a Saturday.  In protest of what is about to come, I hit snooze.  The alarm goes off again at 6:30.  I have a silent debate with myself: what’s worse, waking up this early or running in the heat of the day later.  Being a morning person, I choose the latter as the one to avoid and head to the kitchen.  I pour two bowls of multi-grain cereal with milk, splitting a banana between each serving.  I bring one to the husband who is not a morning person and eat one myself, hoping to quickly digest it before we head out the door. 

We are driving along Harbor Drive trying to find a place to park.  Running along the water on a flat stretch of land is preferable to the hills that surround our house for a 20 miler.  This will be the second 20 mile run of my life, the first being merely a week earlier.  The pain and emotion of the previous long run is still with me as we struggle to find a place to park among the many meters.  I remember back to the week before, when I finished my 20 miler and my entire body hurt.  I curled up into a ball in a shady spot of grass and started crying for no apparent reason; it definitely wasn’t a good cry.  I remember last week at mile 13 when I stopped at a water fountain and said out loud to myself, “This is torture.”  I thought about how 13.1 miles is a half marathon, and I still had seven to go. 

Needless to say, I am not exactly looking forward to what is ahead of me.  The only thing that is keeping me motivated is the constant reminder I am giving myself that after this run, I will be in taper mode until the race.  A lighter running schedule is ahead.  Maybe my legs will start to feel like my own again.

It is already pretty hot when I start out, a prelude to the 88 degrees that is forecast for the day.  As I begin, I am expecting my legs to feel heavy and weak, as they have for every run I have completed in the past two weeks, but they surprisingly feel strong.  This time when mile 13 rolls around, all I feel is pure bliss.  Presumably a runner’s high.  I feel like I want to cry, but this time from the overwhelming sense of joy I am experiencing.  I think to myself, I am able-bodied, I am strong, I have trained well, I have worked hard, what a beautiful thing it is that I am out here running, how lucky I am.  I am running along the harbor with a smile on my face, which must look strange to passers-by.  This high only lasts for about a mile, and the end of the run is still hard work, like a 20 mile run should be, but it is beautiful.  I feel strong through the last mile, and keep a pace that I am proud of.  I don’t push myself too hard; I just stay strong until the end and enjoy myself.

People often ask how I could like running.  Mile 13 today is why.  And mile 20.  And so many other miles run.  As soon as I doubt my love for running, like I have been lately, something incredible happens and I love it again.   That is how running is.  I haven’t had a good run in the past two weeks.  Every run has been hard.  My legs have been heavy and sore consistently.  But today made it all worth it.  Running today was beautiful, refreshing, life giving.  All three hours and seventeen minutes of it.

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