Hey y'all. This is part 1 of a series about how running is a beautiful metaphor for life (and anyone who's had half a conversation with me knows how much I love a good metaphor...)
Running is seasonal.
I don't mean that you run during certain seasons of the year (which is, of course, true for some people). I mean that I go through different seasons as a runner. Running is a constant in my life, but it changes shape, form, and function as I, too, change and grow.
In my first season of running, in college, I ran to escape: boredom, heat and humidity (In Charleston, so funny, right?), and my emotions. I vainly ran to "keep in shape" (because 15 minutes on the treadmill 3 times a week can burn off all that pizza and beer, right?). Mostly, though, I had no accountability. No races, no discipline, no community. Which is probably why I tabled my life as a runner for nearly 3 years.
In my second season of running, which began almost 3 years ago, I ran for independence. Honestly. I was terrified that I had become so connected to my friends, co-workers, and family that I was incapable of accomplishing anything on my own. So when a friend invited me to run/walk a 5K fundraiser for children with autism, I figured I had nothing to lose. Isn't that the truth? The race was hilarious. I was cold at the start, but I was burning up by mid-run. I got smoked by a 65 year old man (an occurrence I've come to expect at races). My time was not good. But I felt incredible. I mean, in-flipping-credible.
So I signed up for a half marathon. I trained in the summer, in the heat, mostly in the evenings after work. My 16-ounce water bottle was more than enough and I never ate more than half a pack of Cliff Shots on my long runs. I cross trained with yoga and stayed pretty healthy.
The race went so well that I gave myself some time off as a treat. One week turned into one month and before I knew it, I had an injured IT band and I couldn't hack the winters. I took so much time off that the following summer was too much for me. 20-mile weeks were gone. 3-mile weeks were the norm. I felt (and looked) terrible.
In my third season of running, which I am presently in, I'm a new woman. I've trained for and completed a second half-marathon. It was so much harder than the first, I forgave myself for running only 1 minute faster (not one minute-per-mile, one minute total.) I trained through the winter this time and loved it. I ran in the morning and loved it. I've switched to minimalist shoes, I drink so much more water and I'm flying through Cliff Shots. Even my taste buds are different this time around. I suddenly despise vanilla and adore "Razz." Who knew? And mint chocolate Cliff Shots? Get outta my life if you don't love that stuff! And I'm faster. In case you were wondering.
My favorite thing about this new season of running, though, it just how it feels. I'm older, so it makes sense that I've matured. But I really feel like I've aged in a wonderful way. I'm so much less concerned with time than I was in my second season. I listen to my body much better; I know when to run through it and when to stop. And I'm finally ready to share running. I don't need to prove myself to anyone anymore, least of all to myself. Instead of running from my community, I'm running to it. When my favorite racing buddy packed up and moved to Colorado, I was a little lost for a while. I slipped back into my cocoon, in danger of reliving the end of season 2 all over again.
Want to know what brought me back out? Community. Turns out while I was developing my own season of running, so were my brothers 1,000 miles away. Even when we're not together, we can't help but be exactly the same. In 6 months I hope to be cruising through 26.2 with my trusty sidekicks. Will I be in the same season? Who knows.
But I know I'll still be running.
Run to Home Base at Fenway Park, May 2010
Tell me about your seasons as a runner!