I am not a runner. Before marrying my husband I can remember this one time I went running when I was seventeen. Instant regret. At that age I was in magnificent shape. I took pride in the surprise of others at how strong a skinny little girl could be. When it came to running, the answer was always one gigantic nope. Cardio in other ways was fine. Even sprinting could be okay. But running more than a quick dash felt to me like voluntary suffocation in motion – incomprehensible and painful.
Then I met this guy who loves to run. He didn’t have his own vehicle when he lived in San Diego, so he just ran everywhere. Like twenty miles kind of everywhere. He would run 10+ miles in the South Carolina humidity. I do not understand this at all. But I love him and he loves running and somehow that turned into me signing up for my first 5k the year we were married. Young love and all that.
He dragged me through it, sometimes with encouragement and other times with actual dragging, me begging just to walk. Did I mention I despise running? I finished and with an astonishing time. Well, astonishing to me. I jogged my way through one or two more 3.1 mile stints here and there over the next couple of years but nothing consistent.
We moved to NY and I got wild ideas about getting into shape. I began running with something like consistency and was amazed that muscle memory is a thing that exists and that I wanted to collapse in a heap slightly less than when I had first tried this thing three years before. Our pastor and his wife along with a group from our church were signed up to run an 8k for a local cause. Of course, my husband was eager to join. Even now I’m really fuzzy on the details of how I became committed to dragging my body over 5 miles at more than a walking speed.
I trained because there is no way on this planet that I could run more than a half mile cold turkey. My husband can go without running for 6 months and drop 5 miles and still walk afterward. When he does things like this, I have to remind myself that I love him. Anyway, I did it even though in the first five minutes I discovered there were hills and, holy cow, I had not signed up for hills and my period started right after that (yes, mid-run) making me so nauseous I thought I was going have to quit. Spoiler alert: I finished. My time was respectable and satisfying only if you are also not a runner.
Shortly after this I had what can only be described as the most bizarre anaphylactic episode and discovered through much confusion and testing that you can in fact be allergic to exercise. I swear that I’m not making this up. Then I got pregnant. If you are pregnant and not a runner, then pregnant and running never happen at the same time. Then I had a baby and the recovery was really bad. Then some kid decided to fall asleep at the wheel of his car and hit mine breaking my foot in many places. Then I tried to start learning how to run again and my thyroid levels tanked. As I write this, I’m beginning to wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something.
That unnecessarily long account brings me to this morning where I watched my husband and friends run in the same 8k I did two years ago. This time I am on the sidelines with a toddler strapped to my chest. I expect to be relieved and relaxed, ready to enjoy a sunny morning.
Instead, I want to run.
I want to surge forward by the strength of my muscles, feel the heaving burn in my lungs, to go on and on until the motion of my body runs out, to push and push to pass the person in front of me and then the next one and the one after that. I want to feel that final burst of adrenaline that sends me crashing across the finish line and the exquisite satisfaction of a body tired and aching from exertion. I have felt tied down by one wave of restrictions after another. Now I want to feel the kind of freedom that only comes from pounding your feet against a solid world, flying in the direction of your own choosing. Even with my daughter stuck tight against me, my foot gently aching, weighed down with a diaper bag and water bottles, I feel the desire growing moment by moment to drop it all.
I want to run.