The air I’m sucking in between gasps burns my lungs. I’m convinced each leg weighs 300 pounds. I’m aware my shoulders are hunched forward in the most terrible posture, and yet I cannot stand up any straighter. My stomach feels sick and I’m dizzy. Probably from oxygen deprivation, I think as I look at my Nike Running app, only to see I have not even gone half a mile. Are you kidding me? I hate running. I HATE this. Why am I doing this?
I flashback to myself sobbing, deep heaving sobs on the bathroom floor in fetal position, listening to Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees on a loop.
Oh, that’s right, I think to myself, this is why I’m running. Because sometimes life has a way of ripping the rug out from under you just when you think life might be getting easier. Just when you think you might be hitting your stride.
When I don’t know where to turn, when life changes course abruptly, I turn to music and exercise. Usually simultaneously.
Sure, these both are significant aspects of my daily life, but when I’m “going through” something, these two passions become my sustenance, the life force that gets me through the day.
And yet, I have not exercised regularly since I swam in college. 7 years ago. I have been living at sea level for 11 years. This is horrible, I think to myself again. My few months on, few months off routine has really caught up to me. These phases of “I’ll sign up for a half marathon next month”, followed by months (plural) off is not doing me any favors now. I am not a runner, I have never been a runner, and I will never be a runner, negative and self-defeating thoughts seep into my consciousness.
That first day I completed a little over two miles. It felt like I’d completed a marathon, I was so tired and defeated afterward.
I kept going, day after day after day.
The first two months, I dreaded every run. Dreaded.
Months three and four I stopped dreading my runs. I stopped feeling like I might actually die every run. I still felt like I was barely lifting my feet off the ground and making 5 miles was not only a feat to be celebrated, but it left me wiped out the rest of the day. By no definition of “enjoy” was I enjoying running at this point, but I could say with confidence I stopped entirely dreading it.
Right around month 5 something changed.
Suddenly, I started looking forward to running. I even started to feel like I could control my speed. I could have “easy” days and “hard” days. On purpose.
Running saved my life in a way I never could have imagined.
Life has a way of changing course rapidly, knocking us down and catching us off guard. It is so easy to lie down and yell at the universe “why is this happening to me?!” It is so easy to dwell on the past, to tell ourselves we cannot do something (“I am not a runner” or “This pain will never lessen, I will never get over this”).
It is NOT easy to stand up and dust your knees off. It is NOT easy to take that first step. Or the second step. It is NOT easy to transform your life after a devastating blow or overwhelming change. When a an unexpected event happens in your life, you can lie down or you can fight.
Choose to fight.
Keep fighting for what you stand for, for who you are and who you want to become. Find what gives you purpose, what drives you and makes you feel like everything will be okay. Find that passion and pursue it tirelessly.
Run on, my friends.