I started running again recently, and running is probably the task where time off hurts you the most. Running after just a month or so off hurts my pride, my thighs, my confidence, my calves, my brain, my chest and my relationship with neighbors who don’t wave back at me.
It takes a lot for me to get myself ready to run, as I’m sure most can relate to.
I wake up, maybe throw some water in my bedhead, stretch for far too long, and get the right shirt, pants, shoes, headphones and finally hit play on the right podcast. I am more obsessed with music than really anything else in my life, but when I run, I need someone to just talk in my ear about anything that is not running.
Bassy hip hop, loud punk, soothing folk rock, none of it distracts me enough from the task at hand.
I need something where I find the conversation engaging, or can ask myself if I agree with the host’s takes, and invariably it’s a podcast about NBA basketball or movies or the author John Green. Everyone has their thing.
Essentially, I need my mind to be somewhere other than just counting mailboxes while every inch of me hurts and wants to call it quits early.
There are a lot of things about running that I do enjoy.
I like getting myself up early (the only possible time to run in this state is before 9 a.m.). I like getting outside a little, because my job and hobbies mostly put in me in a seat with air conditioning running. I also like the idea that I, a short, stocky kid with bad knees, am a runner.
Or at least that I am someone who runs. I am someone who runs without much of a reason anymore. I no longer have to get in shape for high school lacrosse practices or pass a presidential fitness test.
I do like the idea that I can maybe look slightly better and more fit if I continue this long enough. But mostly I like getting up and trying to get a little farther than I did the previous day, and even if I do little other activity for the rest of the afternoon, I can at least feel pride in the fact that I have moved my feet across a long stretch of asphalt with the sun on my back, up and down hills, around the cruel circle of my neighborhood’s main drag and got home sweaty and tired.
I don’t believe in what lunatic long distance people refer to as “runner’s high.” I don’t think I will ever do this seriously enough to achieve that, and I mostly just feel like I’m going to die when I get done running a couple miles, but I do believe in feeling better after I have run, simply because I have run.
Also, I don’t always get farther than I did the previous day. I remind myself that growth is not always linear. Sometimes (okay, often times) I have to walk for a stretch when I get to the worst hill in the subdivision.
That feeling is not great. Walking is not the goal of running. But it can be part of progress.
One of my English professors once said that they hate writing, but they love having written. I hate running. I love having run.