This time last year I was laying in bed, unable to stand up lest my legs buckled under me and I fell to the floor. It might be more noble if this was workout induced fatigue, but it wasn’t, it was actually the effects of some monsterous stomach virus that had internal fluids coming out every orifice in my body. I’ll spare you the details. You’re welcome. Although this sickness, which lasted for a couple strength sapping weeks, was bad enough, it was only made worse as it became the point that so much in my life started to go downhill throughout the following year. This last year, I can firmly say, has been the worst of my life…..and I’m not one to make such contrived statements. It just seemed like after surpassing every obstacle another would rise in it’s place, usually sequentially bigger.
It started with the sickness. Then I was laid off after securing the best job I’ve ever had. Then it was months spent hopelessly job searching in the ever worsening economy and jobless rate. Then I was effectively limited in communication with my son who is living out of state. Then a good friend died tragically and suddenly. Then my sister died. It just wouldn’t stop.
But it’s deceptive to paint such a blackened canvas, because I’m still here, which means SOMETHING must have been getting me through all this mess relatively unscathed. That something, first and foremost, was and is the wonderful relationship I have with my girlfriend and her son….and my running. Through every bit of that mess my relationship and my running stayed constant, in reality always getting better and better no matter how bad everything else was turning out to be. I can solidly say those two parts of my life kept me from succombing to emotional extremes and the influences of such. Honestly, I don’t know what sorts of things I would have done to keep my head up during the struggle, but I’m satisfied knowing I didn’t have to.
Not to cheapen my relationship at all, which means more than anything else, but in hindsight my ability to continue running through all that mess held so much more importance than I could have ever known. Just simply having a daily routine to follow got me through those days when I didn’t have a job and had no promising leads. Knowing that before everything else I was going to run in the morning gave me a sense of normalcy, not to mention sparked the energy I’d need to search for jobs all over town. Running began every day that I effectively had nothing scheduled.
Running also gave me a sense of accomplishment during those days I had nothing to speak of. Knowing that I could still knock out 10 miles without an effort, or put in a session of hill work, or do 6 x 1 mile repeats all alone, when most people go through their day barely lifting a finger, gave me a sense of accomplishment that would prove invaluable when it was the ONLY thing I could do, the ONLY thing I could say was completed in a day without tasks aside from chasing money.
It also afforded me a continued sense of self-worth, to know that I have talents, that I have abilities when it seems everything with which I constructed my life around had no purpose for anyone at the time. At least I could still run. At least, if I was relatively worthless to everyone else, I could still appreciate myself and prove to myself everyday that I can do some pretty amazing things. I had to believe that if I can run like I do, that something else in me was going to be needed sooner or later. And luckily, that came through.
And when my good friend died in the canoeing accident, running gave me a stronger connection to his life as my daily route at the time took me by the very place he drowned…literally right by it. During those dark days I was able to run by the river that myself and his close friends took to embody his spirit, that represented our friend, and running by that river was like having Ethan running along side me. I didn’t fear his passing because I could still have that connection with him every morning.
And when my sister died and I headed north for her funeral, running in the beautiful terrain in Minneapolis allowed me to collect my thoughts and emotions to process what it all meant. Runnnig gave me the desperate privacy I needed badly at the time, to come to terms with her death on my own accord, by my own understanding. Then further, it gave me the outlet I needed to say goodbye, when a part of my Chicago Marathon was run on her behalf, with her in mind.
So now, we have come full circle, in the constructed abstract calendar year (that ultimately means nothing) and there are a few more constants in my life at this point. The two most important, my relationship and my running, are still here, but now I also have an incredibly solid and supportive job. Sure, I can’t bring back loved ones and my son is still always too distant from my life, but at least the latter can change. I can’t say how the next year will go. I dared never say “At least it can’t get any worse”, because it always can, but I seemed to have more to look forward to than away from.
This time around I plan to continue the progress I’ve made with my running, with more P.R’s, more successfull training and more enjoyable runs. I have no doubts that my relationship will continue forward with the comfort and happiness it gives all of us and I only hope circumstances are shaped that allow me to be with August once again, but of course, nothing is guaranteed. All I know is that I plan to run through it all. I just hope I’m running through more joy than I am despair.
Here’s to hopin.