As the sun was setting, gazing at the most beautiful views of a cotton candy colored sky, I realized something. Something so profound, everything made so much sense at that moment. The clarity was almost too much for me to wrap my brain around. But with each stride, I fell into a clearness that once seemed so unreachable and far away. Finally, my first run of the year was simply, yet lucidly unraveling the jumbled thoughts and ideas I’ve had about running for a long time.
Lately, running and I have had an extremely volatile relationship. To be fair, it has been volatile since I ran the Napa marathon in 2015. That awful experience culminated after a year of confusion as to where I stood with running, a new relationship, and the finality of completing my goal of actually running a marathon. I guess I thought running a second marathon would ensure I still enjoyed the sport. And partially, because people highly associated running with me now. However, it did the opposite, actually. After Napa ended in pain, tears, and a very bruised ego, I was essentially done with the sport.
However, for the next handful of years, I’d still sign up to run various races and go on random runs. It never felt right, always forced. There was no longer joy in running. I look at my social media feed from that time, especially the comments, and I can see it. I was forcing myself to believe I still enjoyed running. If I run, I’ll enjoy it. If I post it, I’ll enjoy it. If I sign up for races, I’ll enjoy it. Sounds a little foolish, as I reflect on it all. Through all of this, I never grasped that I needed to treat running like any other relationship in my life.
Running, is in fact, a relationship.
This concept was so foreign until I pieced it together during my run. It’s as if all the puzzle pieces which I’d been trying to put together, now made sense. It had to be a partnership, me and running. There would be times when running would take more than I had to give. Or vice versa, I would take more of running than it could give me. I had to respect it, listen to it, and trust it. All of which I did none of. I forced everything with my runs. I told myself I had to enjoy it, it was part of my identity now. Sounds kinda absurd, right?
Very akin to a romantic relationship, running starts wonderfully with many highs — increasing speeds, running longer distances, and the first thrills of races. But after years of being in this relationship – changes occur, possibly questioning why we are running, having our goals change, or struggling with it in general. Looking back on it all, it all fit together. This belief provided something tangible for me to feel aligned with and put my thoughts around.
Well, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve craved running, planned the run, and then just did NOT run. Every time this cyclical running process happened I shrugged it off and pushed it to the wayside. Most times I set to lace up, I just didn’t do it. I’d find an excuse or I’d just decide to do something else instead. Each time I felt let down by my own self. It was a repeated chain of events and my ego was becoming bruised each time.
I wholeheartedly respect running. I always have, but it did take some time to get to that point. Over my years of training and especially while training for my first marathon, I’d come to learn a lot about the sport and myself. I see where my novice choices made the sport harder on my body, and now more on a personal level too. I understand proper training and nutrition are needed to reach my running goals, much faster than disregarding them. I am aware that I become very anxious if I do not follow my training schedule to a ‘T,’ which is unattainable and unhealthy for so many reasons.
More recently, I’d also realized these running learnings have led me to have a somewhat of a running elitist view of others. Not an elitist view in a physical way, but as someone who has experienced the novice missteps and now is more seasoned in my approach to running. I almost felt superior knowing the value of something as simple as choosing shoes based on fit and feel versus buying only because of a brand name. Or because I no longer listened to music while I ran. Or because I thought investing in a GPS watch was much more efficient for tracking mileage versus lugging a phone on your run. All small, inconsequential things that truly don’t make anyone a better runner than the next runner. But it did create a level of judgment that I felt keen enough to place upon those who I saw running or posting pictures on social. I’m not proud of this and I’ve made the choice to stay in my own lane and let other’s do as they please.
As I felt pain in my left knee with every stride, my chest felt tight, and my ponytail was slipping I made the promise to myself to continue to respectfully treat my relationship with running as something. Because this is exactly what it is. Something. It is a relationship and must be treated as such. Not just as a hobby. Not just something I do on occasion. But a genuine relationship, which is important to nurture, encourage and have patience with.
I always thought each run was a new journey. But really, each run was just another way for me to work on my relationship with running. Not all runs will be good and those are probably the ones where I learn the most about myself, thus showing me more depths of my relationship with running. The good run will be celebrated with a smile (maybe even a treat) and will help maintain the normalcy and consistency with my running relationship. Each run is just an opportunity to work on my relationship with running, the run does not define my relationship. And to understand this theory (or idea), I know I can connect with running again. Our relationship never ended, it was just in one of those valleys of uncertainty and unknown, where extra work was needed.
I see it clearly now, my relationship with running requires vulnerability, strength, and perseverance.