Over the past couple years, distance running has become a hobby of mine. Running frees me, and it is one activity where I can look back on the past and say, yes, I can do today what I couldn't do yesterday...or last week...or a year ago. There is a constant building of improvement that I haven't been able to see in many other areas of life.
Until this past July, when the muscles in my back decided they'd had enough of my athletic routine (running is not my only activity) and became aggravated, creating numbness in one foot and a dull ache in my back. Luckily, this was not a serious injury. There was no brace, no surgery, no days where I could not get out of bed. Just an annoyance...a bit of rest, a few sessions of acupuncture and a couple of back cracks and I was practically back to normal. I was graced with healers who insisted that complete rest was not my path, rather, pursue the activities I love to track the healing process.
But by the the time that message became clear to me, I had lost much of what in running we call your "base." Three miles felt like five, and five felt like, well, an eternity. I was supposed to be training for a half marathon, farther than I'd ever gone, and have another summer of running accomplished. But there was none of that. Instead, on those clear July evenings, I found myself at the park watching other people run, writing in my journal, and trying not to get depressed. Sure, I could do "other things." But what "other things" are there, really, when running is what you love?
I have spent the past month trying to re-gain my base. My standard fun run was a five to six mile distance. I love that distance because it is short enough to not sap up an entire day's worth of energy, but long enough to get an awesome cardio workout. Tonight was my first attempt at getting back to the full six miles. I ran at the Uptown lakes with a friend, the same friend with whom I was supposed to train for the half, and we both struggled. She is still recovering from the half, which took a toll on one of her knees, yet the running addiction is so strong she is wearing a brace and working through it. As for me, my legs just didn't want to. Once we got past the four mile mark or so, my body had had it and insisted on walking. Thankfully my friend was OK with it and we grumbled back to her apartment, begrudging the crappy run we were both having.
And then I remembered something a trainer used to say: "If you got one foot in front of the other, it was a good day." I iterated this to my friend and we both admitted we should be grateful we can go six miles on foot, walking, jogging, or otherwise. The hard part is three months ago the two of us booked around that same route, no walk breaks, just a great run around the lakes, and today, a struggle.
I realized later how metaphorical this run was: some days, we cruise around the lakes, happy to be alive and feeling good the whole time. Other days, life makes our knees hurt and we wish we could stop, but can't because of that insistent drive to keep going. Perhaps this is a sub-conscious reason for a running addiction: if we can through those painful, shitty ones, it makes the great ones seem even better. And no matter what, we always go back for more. Yesterday was tough, but today might be OK and so we get out of bed and do it all over again. Who knows, with a bit of training, the toughness of yesterday and the OKness of today might lead to a fabulous tomorrow.