I haven’t been this excited to go on a run in a long time. I can’t remember how long it’s been actually, so, it’s been THAT long.
Since my last surgery I’ve struggled to find my running rhythm, to find an ease and drive to keep putting in the work, day after day, week after week. Ultimately, it came to a head on a hot, humid morning when the accumulated fatigue finally wore me down and I couldn’t bring myself to start the workout…or even complete the mileage. I wondered to myself, “Isn’t it better to burn out than fade away?”.
But I wasn’t sure which part of that mantra I was playing out. Did I burn out? Each morning brought a sense of obligation to run, without an obvious, premeditated goal in which to strive towards. Each morning I made it into the run, but wasn’t convinced of the success when I finished, my legs weighted with effort and my lungs struggling to remain calm. It refused to get easier. I just couldn’t find the will to push harder to make the next effort easier in comparison. I might have blown up. I might have burnt out.
Or was this fading away? Despite the personal competitive success I managed before my last surgery, I couldn’t bring myself to find that same purpose, pushing against the new schedule of training before work and the mental tension that shortened window of run time brought upon me. I could no longer figure out what I was running for, who I was running for, and what the importance of it all was. Like a fire slowly losing oxygen, seemingly quite literally within myself, the flame was dying down. Was this fading away?
And yet, as much as I try to imagine a new daily schedule, filling the gap where running once lay…I can’t. I can’t imagine giving away the ability to spend hours in the woods of Southern Indiana, running with friends when called upon, or just finding the necessity of a cathartic release through physical exhaustion when nothing else is working. While at the same time, I can no longer dedicate myself to expending every last bit of creative energy during my morning runs. I just can’t compete anymore. Every attempt to this period involved not just running, but progressing, and training to progress. It was always about seeking out previous boundaries and surpassing them, but of course, the problem is that each boundary was found through intense training and so to surpass previous boundaries meant more intense training. 80 mile weeks to 90 mile weeks. 90 mile weeks to 100 mile weeks. 100 mile weeks to 120 mile weeks. There is, really, no where else for me to go. The effort to sustain such a training load is now both physically and psychologically out of my reach, or at least, in motivation anyways. Not only does that type of training seem within the realm of only a past physical self, it’s not even there mentally. It doesn’t even sound fun.
That hot and humid day, I just broke. I stopped running. I didn’t even take a break in such a way that I was renewing myself for the next effort, I was just done, and I felt a sort of comfortable release in doing so, despite the lingering tension of “giving up” or “burning out”, even, “fading away” in the back of my mind. I was just done. Add to this break, my son was coming for the month of July for our scheduled parenting time, and I was that much more motivated to leave the creative energy expense of running behind to focus all my attention and efforts upon him, leaving me with essentially no regret.
And, it’s all ok.
I didn’t believe it would be ok. I really didn’t. I thought I would be eaten up by the frustration, the lack of creative expense, but I’m not. Because, ultimately, I just changed up the pace. I’m no longer running for the attempt to progress indefinitely, to push against that stubborn wall of ability, to find my boundaries. I found them. I found them through competition, through self-drive, through the limits of cancer, through the ravages of surgery. I found all those limits and I’m no longer driven to find them. I feel accomplished, but, again, It’s not like I can just up and quit.
But I can change pace.
Now, I’m finding a certain satisfaction in running by daily motivation, but taking each day as it comes, and not scheduling or obligating myself to any distance or effort. Some days, I wake up and realize spending time in my garden will be the most satisfying activity. Or reading through my latest book. Or working on my latest drawing. And other days, running takes precedence over everything, without worry, without expectation, but just the genuine motivation and enjoyment of feeling my body work, of being in the world, of firing all cylinders and losing the tension that has built within.
Like I said, I haven’t been this excited to run in a long, long time. I’m on the East Coast for family vacation and tomorrow morning the boardwalk will be waiting with the scores of other runners laboring under the suffocating humidity. The planks will soften my step and the ocean will wave out it’s cooling temptation so close by, but I’ll just keep running, because this is where my genuine excitement to run has never faded and where I wait to wake early and meet the sunrise on it’s furthest horizon. Here is where I seem to never burn out, never fade away. The routine and scenery never seems to change here, yet in a way, I’m starting something new with my running, and the change of pace may take some time to be more literal, but the mentality behind it will be undeniably new.
It’s been awhile, but I look forward to running, again, into this latest life transition.