In the cold predawn, I wake up before my alarm—as in, two hours before my alarm. After some fitful tossing and turning, I realize that I will not be getting back to sleep any time soon. A seven-mile run looms before me, and I will have to do it on just a few hours of sleep.
The biggest battle of the day is sometimes that moment where I try to talk myself out of bed into the cold darkness of the bathroom to put my running gear on. By the time I am done setting up the team water stop, I am just beginning to not hate the fact I am awake. I may even catch myself feeling hopeful as I watch packs of runners pass me on the road back to our team meeting point. I imagine myself to be more like them—faster and more graceful.
But this particular Saturday will be the worst run I’ve had in a while. All runners have bad days I tell myself as I struggle to keep moving. I am on a new diet. I am PMSing. I am tired. I give myself these excuses to explain why I am dead-legged, out of breath and just plain miserable. Anything to avoid the truth: I am out of shape.
I am miserable the entire time, and also very self-conscious about it because I am running with a team. Not only that, but I am supposed to be mentoring this team. I am supposed to be upbeat and tireless with unending energy—not this huffing and puffing mess. Luckily, the team is not as hard on me as I am with myself, and the running camaraderie of the morning helps ease the intense disappointment I feel about my own sorry performance.
After four years as a runner, I am in the middle of a slump. I can go six weeks without running and really not miss it at all. (I know—don’t tell my running friends!) Which means that lacing up my running shoes has been quite the battle lately.
I miss how I feel after a run. I miss the sense of accomplishment. I miss the fitness. But I don’t know that I miss the act of running. And slogging through a seven-mile run of shame certainly doesn’t help matters.
Of course, I am a stubborn soul. Just ask my husband. And so, I refuse to give up so easily. In fact, my entire running career has been an exercise in stubbornness more than anything else. I have spent more time as a runner injured than not.
So the next day, a sunny-and-60s Sunday, I decide a short solo run will set things right. And I am wrong. Still dead-legged, I spend a very long hour fighting high winds and hills just to get four miles in. (Yeah, I know. Don’t remind me of my pace, as I am very aware of the math.)
After back-to-back disasters, I made the hard decision to defer a half marathon I was supposed to run in Houston this weekend. And then I went out and bought new running shoes just to confuse myself.
But one of the things I absolutely love about running is that you can only have so many bad running days before you are blessed with an absolutely wonderful one.
I saw a quote once that I haven’t been able to find again, which said that there are no bad runs because you learn from them all, and the difficult ones make you stronger. (Imagine a quote much more poetic than this paraphrase.)
And today was an absolutely wonderful sunset run. The weather was my idea of perfect running weather—chilly and dry. It was short, it was fast (for me), and it was oh-so sweet. Most of all, it gave me hope. And it gave me a place to start again.