I measure my life by the miles I run.
I feel my feet on the pavement in my ears at the exact moment my forefoot sole makes contact with the asphalt. The thinking drawers I have open in my brain are amounting to a massive number. I am rehashing conversations. I am practicing the professional presentation I have to do later today. I am thinking about the goals I have for the day and my life . I am praying. I am revisiting memories – especially of a time I have run that route before and what I had been thinking at the time or the song I have been listening to. I think about books and who I am going to be recommending books to. I am thinking all these topics at the same time.
I do not warm up. I do not stretch. I get dressed, put my shoes on, and go. My legs feel heavy and it feels like I must put forth a lot more effort than necessary to move one leg in front of the other. Is it my shoes? Is it my attitude? This often happens. On short 5 miles runs it can take up to 3.5 miles to feel like it should. After the 3.5 is when I find the rhythm and my brain can stop thinking about the physical act of running and hum along. When I find this sweet spot I feel like I can run forever.
I often find myself in the same physical spaces on a different run. In these instances, I can suddenly recall with alarming clarity exactly the song I had been listening, who I was running with, or an emotion that I was engulfed in. It is a surreal sensation.
Suddenly without warning, my thoughts will empty and my mind is clear. I am in moving meditation now.
When I am afraid I will have nothing to think about I assign myself questions almost like a writing prompt for my journal. I give myself these questions as an assignment to busy my mind.
I am a happy runner girl when I can run 10 miles a day. It is the gravitas I have from these days that is like a light that beckons people into it. People do not know I have run that many miles. They just know there is something about me and they feel the need to comment on something. Usually my hair or my outfit. They are compelled to say something.
I am nearing the end of the route and my thoughts turn toward what I want to eat when I am done running. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and chocolate sauce are favorites. As soon as I put my foot in the door of my dwelling I don’t want those foods anymore. The most amazing and common occurrence is when I am not hungry at all. I have stood in the glow of the refrigerator and eaten an entire jar of squash pickles because they look good as I think that pickles do not have many calories so I am safe and I have no undone all the running I just endured.
There are everyday runs and there are memories of races that are ingrained into the muscle memory of my legs. Never to be forgotten completely. A run or a phrase will trigger the emotions and the pain and the joy all at once. Almost sensory overload but since I was there my brain can process all of it at once. I am not sure if it is like this for other people or because I am used to having so many thoughts at once. They are in my mind in a file that hopefully will never be deleted.
Runners have quirks. I had quirks and was odd before I became a runner. I suppose I was always a runner but had not opened myself up to that part of myself yet. I have special running socks and my students notice. There are shorts I will wash three days in a row to keep wearing them.
I have gotten up at 3 am to run, never to be repeated.
Some runs are so cold and I have so many layers on for warmth, it takes one load of laundry to get them clean again.
At the HUFF race at Chain of Lakes park I ran in waist deep water – in the winter…the ice rattled around in my shoes as I exited the puddle up onto the frozen mud and leaves.
Food has never tasted so good after a hard run or race. A shower has never felt so good. I have been so tired that I almost couldn’t eat. I have run myself into a trance and running is the only thing that can turn my brain off to overthinking. I ran so far I started to see things that weren’t there. Spiders and silos in the woods. I am always striving for the effortless running zones.
I play mental tricks to keep me sane during a long run or a race – esp when I realize in the middle I am over it.
I trained hard for the flying pig marathon and I woke up that morning missing my running friends and not wanting to run.
My first marathon was magical. It wasn’t terrible as many other people have experienced. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I was so ready for that run. I had trained myself well. When I realized as I ran over a bridge and checked my watch that I was going to finish under 3:30 I started to have a hard time breathing because I started to get emotional. I had to pull myself together. I started to not be able to breathe and slowed down. Then I thought of all the preparation I had endured and how it was paying off. I did not want to ruin it within the last mile. It was almost over and it felt so much shorter than any training run. I felt energized and amazed. I finished and then stopped running. I had my medal and this mylar blanket. I had stopped. My legs had stopped and I couldn’t figure out what to do. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t sit. It hurt to lean. Suddenly all the pain from the entire 26.2 miles started to seep into my body. I was cold.
I talked to myself during the race. Steak and Shake chili had never tasted so good. My mind was numb and I was thinking almost no thoughts. Just observing what was around me in the tent that was shielding the wind. I don’t recall moving from the finish line to the tent to sit.
At the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, IL I was the 12th woman finisher. I was so excited. It rained, as most of my marathons. I was so tired but had PR’ed by 5 minutes. I had prayed my feet would go numb. I had racing flats on which lowered my time but the soaked shoes and the pounding of my feet even with my light frame had crushed what little cushioning to nothing. I was in agony, but would not walk.
I measure my life in the miles I run.
I run less now because I am not training for anything and I do not want to. I run with my daughter. I run with friends. I am back to running on the treadmill which is how I started.
I will always be a runner.