Can a good run change your life?
I tend to think so. When I remember the sun setting on my first Comrades marathon (it took me over 11 hours), I really had the feeling part of me died with the sun that day and I was reborn on the bus back to Durban.
I remember the first time I ran for a full hour. It was with my friend Melissa at cross country practice. Our strict coach said we could run whatever we felt like, and instead of taking the day off, we actually ran longer than we ever had and finished very proud of ourselves.
And I remember the day I decided to “run to work” from the Rockaways. I mapped out the distance, the painfully early time I would have to wake up, and the subway I would need to connect to the Brooklyn Bridge – and I woke up and did it, which felt like a fearsome adventure for a Tuesday morning. Then it turned into a habit that trained me for the Comrades marathon.
Let’s call that the first loop.
Lately, running 5 miles everyday- at any pace – feels like a big challenge. I tend to dream in point to points (think Durban to Maritzburg or Canterbury to Rome!) but some days “learning to run again” feels so daunting.
So I start out with laps around the house so I can get to a half mile while keeping the option of quitting and going home as real as possible. But by then, I am already sweating a little. I feel like I might as well make my run longer than the shower I need to take when I stop, so I go up the road. I make turns and run back, subconsciously avoiding hills, checking my phone every 100thof a mile to make sure it’s adding up to something.
By the time I am about halfway to the distance I want to run, I can starting with the “one more’s”. Just make it to the third mile, crawl to that finish line, and then it’s the 4th, you can end at the 5th.It’s okay if you stop to take a picture of the bunny (run, rabbit run!), or the sunset, just keep going no matter how long it takes. By the end, I’ve made it 5 miles running. Somehow at exactly 5.01 miles I am at home or in front of the coffee shop for a celebratory drink.
When it’s over, I look at the tangled map my GPS has made. Circles that loop and overlap and cross all over town, never too confidently venturing out. I feel the tension that has slipped away somewhere in all that huffing and puffing.
The sun is setting, it’s a run that almost didn’t happen, but it did. Is it a run at all, or just a steady jog, a sunset knot, the thing to keep my running dreams together for today.
What are some of your most memorable runs and what would you call them?