I struggle to maintain my weekly mileage, even after recently committing (then uncommitting?) to train for a new post-cancer diagnosis marathon PR. I pushed towards 80 mile weeks, began hitting them consecutively, but suddenly each week was followed by an obstacle that took a day of running away from me and I started falling off. It wasn’t that I had lost the motivation to chase 80 then 90 mile weeks, but that when getting a full day of running in the log became a challenge, I chose not to find a way. It made me question what was different in the past.
Prior to diagnosis I hit 90, 100, 110 mile weeks without fail, no matter the obstacles that came my way. It didn’t matter if I had appointments, travel, or unexpected issues pop up, running was non-negotiable. Now, I guess it IS negotiable. Back then, I also used to live and breathe running. I rarely created art, didn’t tend a garden, had no medical appointments, wasn’t chasing down jobs, etc. Running was my sole focus, and the mental energy put into considering the act of training and seeking my goals took precedence over all else. It was my reason for waking up in the morning. I know I’ve lost some of that now, and even with scaling back my non-running activities (bye garden), the idea of redlining so much energy towards running seems not only fragile, but somewhat absurd too. There is also a part of me that wishes I could get back to the point where I lived and breathed running and could enter the zen state of doing little else but putting one foot in front of the other. This is real life though and dreams don’t surmount needs.
I simply don’t live and breathe running anymore. In the past I would force runs in no matter the obstacles. If I had to leave town at 7 am to travel all day, I would get up at 4 and get a run in first. There was NO excuse. Now, although there could be no excuse, I find little reason to avoid them. I just don’t NEED to live and breathe running anymore, to get a run in every day, even if I want to.
The funny thing is, the reason I don’t necessarily need to run every day is that the act of running seems inconsequential and selfish to the bigger problems of the world, and yet, whenever I try to focus on the bigger problems of the world I find myself wanting to just bury my head in the act of running. In the face of all THAT, I WANT to live and breathe running. Then there are the necessities of daily life. A working life and managing the obligations that allow us to navigate the complexity of just getting by can’t be ignored, especially when the security and routine of work disappears and suddenly every bit of mental energy is put back into getting a paycheck yet again.
Living and breathing running to the degree that I once did also takes a support structure of others who are also living and breathing running to a similar degree. Before I was meeting twice, sometimes three times, a week to run and train with other obsessives chasing down goals always pushed out of reach. We leaned on each other, if not literally, then simply through the understanding that we were all trying desperately in the face of everything else. We lived and breathed it together. Now, I am more solitary. This has it’s own benefits, but that doesn’t mean it’s easier, just different.
Living and breathing running to the extent that competitive runners do is not easy. It takes a certain amount of leisure time, a lack of obligations, and a reliable routine that is interrupted only occasionally. It is repetition and ritual. Not being able to live and breathe running like I used to doesn’t mean it’s no longer valuable or enjoyable, but it definitely means I’m not waking at 4 am to get a run in no matter what. The part of me that refuses to get up that early to run says, “You don’t need to live and breathe running anymore, there are more important activities in life.” The part of me that tries to engage with the world, however, says, “Set your alarm. Nothing else matters.”