I did my last “hard” run today before the half marathon next week, and I’m full of reflection about my return to running over these last several months. So bear with me. Or don’t, and I will understand.
First, it just feels really good to be fitter than I have been in a few years. There’s a lot of joy in realizing that after six miles of fartlek this morning, I still felt strong, that I had more in me. Although I can’t say that without seeing my younger self smirk at the pace.
Because any reflection of the running sort is bound to involve my younger self. I was “a runner” from my early teens and it remained at the core of my identity through college. I didn’t compete after college, but I did keep up a more or less regular habit for another five-ish years. It’s a curious experience to come back to running after the better part of a decade away from it. There’s comfort and confidence from tapping a deep knowledge written into the memory of muscles and joints. But I’m wary. It wasn’t the physical part of running that caused me to drift away, it was the mental.
At its best, running is a meditation in motion. I am my breath and my foot strike, my mind wanders no farther than the ground a few steps ahead and the trees overhead. It’s certainly not at its best every time out, but I do think I find it more frequently than I did in my teens, and certainly in my twenties.
The younger me hated long runs; after about 45 minutes the monotony just drove me crazy. Now my favorite part of my routine is the weekend long run. I did a couple two hour runs in recent weeks that I genuinely enjoyed.
But there’s been fewer weekday runs that I can say the same about of late. It’s been harder to get out the door, but also harder to cover the miles once I do get out. The mornings are dark and frequently wet. My legs have been tired from pushing myself on the weekends. I’ve had some nagging pains in my feet and lower legs. Snippets of the old recording about how I “should run” have crept back into my head and I don’t like it.
I don’t like hearing those snippets but I can’t say right now what will quiet them. I’m really looking forward to running this half marathon, to see what it feels like to push myself over a long distance and a difficult course. And then I’m looking forward to letting go of my training routine and finding the rhythm that fits this next season.