Saturday, June 30, 2007

A moment of enlightenment

It's been nearly a year since I last went for a run. I used to be a decent runner... Not fast, but consistent. I would run about a nine-minute mile--barely more than a jog, really--but I could keep it up for 90 minutes at a time or more, on my better days. I enjoyed running after work from time to time last summer, as a way to unwind from the monotony of cubicle life. But even then my running was starting to wane. I was out of practice; I could barely run three miles before I was huffing and panting and had to call it quits for the day. Then school resumed in August, and I became busier than ever with my master's degree--and when January rolled around, I had my degree to finish plus the CPA exam looming before me. I had no time to exercise as frequently as I used to, and I knew I could never keep up running with my infrequent training schedule... so I stopped. And I enjoyed life without running, for months and months.

Tonight as I was walking down Lumpkin Street, in the last half hour or so before dark, I turned down one of those side roads that cuts through one of the sleepy Five Points neighborhoods and joins with Milledge Avenue. I used to run down these roads quite often, and just soak up all the Athens-exclusive sights that make this such a special part of town. As I walked tonight I could feel the air temperature dropping every moment, and the humidity beginning to relent for the evening... and something came over me. I started to run--not gradually, not after deliberation, but just in an instant. And I fell back into my old rhythm within seconds--counting my breaths and the slapping of my shoes against the sidewalk, in, two, three, four, out, two, three, four.

Why haven't I taken up running again over this past year? Because I have been afraid. I've been afraid that, being out of practice, I would have no stamina and I would have to work and scrape my way back to where I used to be. The training, the overcoming of that obstacle that makes you have to stop and catch your breath--that is not the fun part of running. And I never wanted it to be all hard work. I wanted it to be something rewarding, and I feared that it could never be that anymore.

So tonight, when I began to run and suddenly something about it just seemed right, I made a deal with myself. If I can run all the way home without stopping, I thought, then I will start running again. I suppose I was approximately a mile from home--a distance that would never have intimidated me in bygone days. But tonight I was intimidated. I focused on my breathing, on the way I swung my arms so as to waste as little energy as possible... and I ran. Like Forrest Gump, I just ran. I even took a detour to get home, to ensure that I would have to run up one of those gradual, low-grade hills that I used to despise so much because it felt like you would never reach the peak.

I must admit that I reached a point while I ran tonight when I felt like I could not go on. But there must be a part of me that wants very much to run again, because I did not use that as an excuse to give up. If there was one thing I learned as a runner, it was that most any physical task you set yourself to is in large part psychological. If you have the physical stamina to run one mile, then you have the ability to run two--you just have to convince yourself that you can. I convinced myself that I could make it home, even up that darn hill... And make it home I did. Ice water never tastes sweeter than after a run, and it perhaps has still never been as refreshing as it was tonight.

I'm a runner again. At least for now.

1 comment:

KleoPatra said...

This is SUCH a terrific post. i know the feelings you experienced, and i've done similar things when i've been out of the loop from running as well. i've been running fairly regularly since i was 16, and that's a mighty long time, but there were a few times during years past when i stopped.

i was sick a few times pretty seriously and also i was in a very frightening 3-year relationship with a terrifyingly controlling guy who forbade me from running (tho i did it when he wasn't around and i knew i couldn't be "caught" - long story on that!) so those were times when i stopped but always the running "bug" stayed with me.

So i know what you mean... slowly getting that feel back... your body never forgets! Really! And like Forrest Gump, i can just see you going... challenging yourself with the hill... taking extra streets to re-visit some of your past paths...

So cool.

Good girl.

And Laura, i so know that taste of water when you are finished. Sweet, sweet water, there is nothing better or more refreshing.

This post was just that though. Refreshing.

Keep it up! i'm lovin' it for you, too!