Yesterday as I drove in the dark along the nearly deserted six-lane road, hitting all green lights like catching the brass ring on a merry-go-round, Journey started playing on the radio. Green lights and one of my favorite songs, the day started well.
I did stop believing once for a bit of time, between my back, my broken foot, and an overdose of steroids, which makes running again all the sweeter for having known the pain.
Runners tend to see running as a metaphor for life: struggle, pain, failure; achievement, success, fulfillment, and for good reason. So often running, like life, is a dichotomy of both success and failure, achievement and loss, pain and joy. We live so much of life in our minds. “I can’t.” “They won’t.” “If only…”
When we run, we can be. When I run I can look up at the sky, hear birds calling, breathe deeply, hear the soft sounds of my feet on the pavement. The problem is, my leg hurts. I run, I look around, I hurt. Now, I know what causes the pain, and I know I’m not likely to break anything or do permanent damage as long as I continue doing what I’m supposed to do. In this case, I want the joy more than I don’t want the pain.
One of the most healing moments of my life was the night of my brother’s funeral. Everyone had left, just family members sitting around the kitchen table, wondering what to say or do, when someone started telling a story on Bret. Soon we were crying laughing at memories of my brother who was so incredibly rich in love and personality. Crying, and laughing. Joy and pain. At that moment I knew – I believed – that someday that gaping hole that went straight through me, right through the middle of me, catching on every breath, would fade. The pain would lessen over time, and it was OK to grieve and still feel joy.
I am a person who focuses on negative. I don’t know if I am depressive because I’m negative, or if I’m negative because I’m depressive, but I’ve finally decided that doesn’t matter. What matters is what I believe. What is the truth in this day? It’s grey, cold, cloudy. Can I fill it with warmth and light? Do I dwell on “I wanted to…” “Now I can’t…”? What purpose does this day hold?
I’m re-reading Jack Daniels, who says every run should have a purpose (such as intensity or distance). He, however, was coaching world-class college kids. I’m not comparable to either world-class or college-aged, and I’ve decided some of my runs will have the purpose of just for the hell of it. Because I can. Because I can wake up, and my legs mostly work, and it’s not 3 feet of snow and I just can.
Yesterday I changed my routine and joined some friends I haven’t run with for a while to get a few miles before the sun came up. We ran down the street and out the Greenline, just goin’ anywhere. We ran and talked and joked, in the dark, picking out the clearly marked “snake crossing” in the dim beam of my head lamp, elated that no snakes appeared to be anxious to cross in the dark under our feet. Too soon it was time to turn around, get back to the cars, and go do grown-up things, so we reluctantly headed back. When the run was done my watch noted that I’d gone 3.72 miles.
I have a dangle. This means that, if I do not run off the remaining .28, my numbers will be odd. When I download my data, my numbers will not end evenly, there will be a .72 mile dangle.
Then some other day I will have to run an extra .28 to even the dangle, which means I will have a second dangle.
I had 7 on the training plan.
Now I have to math. 7 – 3.72 = um, 3.72 +.28 = 4 and I have five to do, so that’s 1.28, except, wait, I actually have 7 to do, and 7 – 5 = 2, so I have 2.28 to do.
Somehow that doesn’t seem right. I think I did something wrong there.
I drove home with 3.72 miles on my watch, worrying stupidly the entire time about finishing the goal. Hitting the mark. I got out of the car to go run my 1.28 or 2.37 or whatever I had left and stopped, standing still in the carport. A flock of birds circled and swooped in the early morning sun, rising and falling as they chittered, swirling upward and off into the beautiful pink sunrise, going anywhere. I thought about that word, purpose. What purpose do these birds have, really? To exist. They exist. They move and breathe and live and give birth and die.
I turned and walked into the house. The run was good, the company was awesome, the sunrise was beautiful, radiating pink across the sky as we walked back to our cars, sweaty from the run and starting to chill a bit. A better purpose was served than meeting any numbers I’ve self-imposed.
If you are struggling with life or with running – don’t stop believing. Don’t give up. Go ahead and give yourself a break if you need, take some time off, reconsider the purpose in your life. As much as you can – and we all know this is very hard to do, but as much as you are able – look for some joy in this day. Make one goal, feel purposeful and believe in yourself, and believe in time. Believe in healing and growth and purpose.