My relationship with Running is trendy- on fleek, as some may say. No, it’s not trendy because cardio is all the rage or because #freefitness is better than paying a C-note for a gym membership. My relationship with Running is like a Tinder relationship. Sometimes Running and I both swipe right on each other. The romance is whirlwind- fast, long, and sweaty. Sometimes though, I swipe left on Running. Sure, it’s fun profile pictures of dirt trails, mountains, and waterfronts look appealing, but I just don’t think it will work. I don’t want to make time for the relationship. I want something more exciting or something that requires less commitment or something more interesting.
I have ghosted Running dozens of times in our fifteen year, on-and-off again relationship. I have cheated on Running with Yoga, Backpacking, Biking, Swimming, School, Work, and even The Couch. Ugh. How could I choose The Couch over Running? It’s embarrassing.
After my other dalliances, I always find my way back to Running, though. Running is always there. With a little work, Running is always ready to forgive my transgressions. Our relationship is infinitely more than a swipe, a dinner date, and a text message three days later.
As a sport, running is so deeply ingrained in my life; it’s hard to remember a time before I ran. In middle school I began competing in Track and Field. Those years of competition are among the most fun in my memory because they were not tainted with knowledge of splits and records and tapering/peaking. Anytime I ran, and any kid runs, spectators can witness purity. Kids’ unadulterated energy zipping along a track and their raw exuberance loping through forests and meadows is special. It is raw.
Competing in Cross Country and Track in high school, it became apparent that running at the collegiate level was a very real possibility for me. Running became about racing. Rather than just trying my best, running evolved into focus on training- attention to mileage and meticulous second counting. Running became a hunt to chase down as many girls ahead of me as possible. It became about winning.
Moving away to college and competing in Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field, I could not have fathomed the commitment to training required for success. Seemingly over the course of a summer, the sport matured and I did not. Despite crossing off day after day of summer workouts, I was not ready for the time and lifestyle required to compete at the collegiate level. There is little use in regrets, but to date, I hold not respecting this literally once in a lifetime opportunity as one of my greatest regrets.
For a period in early 2010, running and I went on our longest hiatus. I was sick with grief after losing my Papa to suicide. I was failing miserably at my pursuit to become an engineer. I was despondent. Though in the immediate aftermath of my Papa’s suicide I found solace in running- the miles slaked the anger and dulled the hurt- the time spent alone, entertained only by my thoughts, was too much. Running and I broke up.
During this lull in our relationship, I was a mess. I missed the comradery of a team. I ached for the hum in my veins after a grueling track workout. I longed for the peace of mind after miles in the quiet of the woods. I wanted to climb hills!
I decided to register for my first marathon, the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Marathon, to commemorate the one year anniversary of my Papa’s death. In choosing to run this marathon, I chose to be successful. On that day, of all days, I had to be successful. My relationship with Running was back on and was filled with newly found meaning. My choice to run that marathon is a defining moment in my life.
It has been six years since my first marathon. I have run seven other marathons since then. In that time, Running and I have had our ups and downs. I have deviated from training plans because of weather and time constraints. I have pumped the brakes on our relationship because of Plantar Fasciitis and sickness. But, I always come back and that has made the difference.
Running is bigger than me. It’s bigger than people and problems. Running is a numinousness. It is a shapeshifter in which I find greater meaning in the seasons of life. Running is about the “trials of miles; the miles of trials.” My story with running is interwoven with the story of my years. It has been a friend in times of contentment and hope in times of anguish. Running is my baseline and bedrock. Indiscriminately, I can return to running regardless of how long it has been since we last met and regardless of where I am in my life. I am grateful for this relationship that has grown into so much more.
Article featured on Müvve on October 10, 2016.