Confessions of a prodigal runner

I have recently (well today) returned to running. Running does not make it easy to return. Running doesn't embrace you and throw you a welcome back party when you come crawling back. Oh no, running isn't so forgiving. Running, once scorned, seeks revenge and vengeance when you come back. You have to Prove Your Faithfulness again before it's sweet to you. You ache, you cramp, you can't breathe. You start to wonder if that sofa with those quiet slothful reading moments might be more your style (and--in my case--they are). Maybe running and I have grown apart. Maybe we aren't meant to be eternal companions or even short-term acquaintances.

But then.

Oh, the freedom of letting go and running and the feel-good rush at the end! Then I remember why I fell in love with running in the first place.


I have had three running eras in my life when I took it seriously and did it regularly:

First, there was the running in England phase. Because we had heard that most college students added extra pounds while in London studying, my friends and I swore we would not let that fate befall us. I got up early every morning and ran. Well, first I walked, then I walked fast, then I alternated walking and running, and finally I was blissfully flying down the paths of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. If I timed it right, I sometimes saw Princess Diana in the backseat of her blue Jaguar, leaving the palace in the morning. Running was freedom, energy, thinking time.

One time I decide to run at night and ask one of the older guys (as in 23 years old) living in the same building to come look for me if I'm not back in 45 minutes. He looks at his watch, marks the time, and says "okay." Because the park is closed, I run through the streets of W2 and into Notting Hill. The streets, they are confusing. It's dark. I get lost. I utter prayers as I run and run and try to figure out how to get back. Two hours later, I return, ready to reassure the London police that I am, in fact, alive and well. Surprise! My time-watching guy has already gone to bed, oblivious that I have been stumbling through the streets of London at midnight. Then I realize I had been running the whole time. I decide at this point that maybe this running thing was going to stick around.


The second era of running was a stretch of time before my wedding. I don't think I need to say more here. I ran because I wanted to look great for my wedding. I was disciplined, I ran my heart out, and the minute we returned from our honeymoon, I put my shoes in the closet and plugged in the FryDaddy.


The third running era was long--for most of my mid- to late-20s. These were the mommy boot camp years, with three kids under 5. Running was a release, an opportunity to leave the house and just be. No diaper bag, no hand holding, no encumbrances. Just me and running. I loved it.

At one point I decided to run a 10k. The morning of the race I decided that, since it was my first race, I would just start at the back...there was no point in holding up any fast runners behind me, right? That was a big mistake. I ran the WHOLE ENTIRE race with an ambulance (hired to provide first aid if needed and to signal the end of the runners) rolling slowly behind me. This bothered me on many levels. I really hate people watching me run and this meant that two young guys were watching me for a really long time. You can't tell me there weren't some jokes at some point about the sad slow girl trudging along in front of them. It also just felt so ominous, like buzzards waiting for their future meal to die. "Are you done yet? Now? What about now?" I kept waving them to pass me but it must have been against the rules. Or they were really funny jokes. I finished, though, and it felt great & all was forgiven (pretty much).


So today began phase 4. May it last long and may running take me back and trust me again. Until then, I'll continue paying my penance.

{Next post: let's talk about running music}