When I first started running a few years ago, I had no idea how much it would alter my life. Nor did I know how I would go through various stages in frequency, intensity, distance. In some ways, running is ever-changing but in some ways it’s a constant force in my life. No matter how many days I have to take off, or choose to take off, running is always THERE. I’m never NOT a runner even when I’m not running. And it took me taking a lot of time off, a break you could say, to realize that.
I went through that honeymoon stage when it was new and exciting and I couldn’t wait to put on my shoes and pound some trails. It was easy even when it was hard. It was effortless. Motivation was through the roof. I had a new identity other than “teacher” and “wife”. I was now a runner. I didn’t just run. I was a true and legitimate RUNNER. I didn’t have some checklist with items that qualified me as a runner. I just realized after another week of great miles that I was a runner.
I went through the injury phase when I doubted I would ever run again. Dealing with those thoughts took a huge toll on my mental and emotional healthy. One of the reasons I started running was so I could sleep better. During the days of ITBS and physical therapy, sleep was as elusive as those one-size-too-small jeans I kept trying to fit into. With every turn on the spin bike and splash into the pool, all I could think about was my wish to just be a runner again. I had lost that identity. And all I felt was lost.
But I did run again. I ran all the way past a 26.2 marathon line which was something more than 1 doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to do with my hip and scoliosis problem. But they didn’t know how amazing the body is and can adapt to many conditions. My body adapted to my curved spine and tilted hip. I may never be fast, but I can go far.
When several little health issues turned into bigger issues, I didn’t have the energy to run and I didn’t care to try. It was during these months that I learned the most about running. During these months when dust collected on the treadmill and shoes got older under my bed without seeing the light of day. There were many days when 1 miles was all I could manage and I was okay with that. And here is the biggest lesson I learned during that time: I always knew I would return. I never questioned my identity as a runner. In the back of my mind, I was still a runner just waiting on a good time to return to the pavement. I was waiting for many things, but I didn’t feel lost or depressed anymore like I did during the first injury break. I didn’t worry about labels or what to call myself. What I was waiting for was health. Physical, mental, and emotional. I needed to get myself back to a healthy weight and healthy numbers. Running could help with that and it was up to me to figure out when to lace up again and begin another stage of running. And that is where I am today.
Is this a second honeymoon? perhaps. It certainly feels like that. I’m enjoying those little joys from the first year. New music. Old music that takes me back to those few laps around a park. New shoes that feel like my first shoes. Fitting back into my favorite running gear. The lake trails that time forgot. Motivation for days on end. I could go on. And what is better this time around? If injury or illness rob me of my ability to run, I’ll be patient and wait. Running isn’t going anywhere. It will always be there for me.