Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Love Having Run

I'm running again.

I have not been a runner all my life - my dad was always a runner and athlete and I was always pretty sedentary. In 2000 or so I started jogging in my neighborhood in Chicago, and it did not come naturally to me. It took at least a year for me to be able to run three consecutive miles, and another few years before I started running 5Ks and 10Ks and triathlons and doing speed workouts and really self-identifying as a runner. Since then it's been an important and very consistent part of my life. I haven't missed more than a week or so ever, until I was about 6 months pregnant and reluctantly phased it out. Too uncomfortable, too absurd.

Running for me started as a break from the intense self-scrutiny of my professional life as a musician, and wound up being something that I could use all the same discipline and focus on without stakes. As a freelance oboist my mistakes are apparent to all, and if my skills slide too much it can certainly impact my bottom line - I can lose a job if my standards slide too much or even for one disastrous public bad-reed experience. Music happens in real time and expectations are high. Running a race is the same, except that no one but me cares what happens. What fun!

During that last 3 months I couldn't take my eyes off runners as they passed me on my endless slow walks. It was the thing I missed most as a pregnant lady - not the wine, and not the bottomless cups of coffee. The loss of the easy slide-out-the-door-and-hit-the-ground-running was what made me saddest. So after Zoe was born I was out as soon as I dared, and had reclaimed my easy three-milers within the first six weeks.

I was back up to 15 mile weeks throughout November, and was looking forward to running through the winter as I always had done, and honestly what hung me up was just time, I think, and energy. I wasn't sleeping, so couldn't get myself out the door early, and the days were short and dark and cold in December and January, and between Steve's job and my teaching and gigs and the baby I couldn't ever make time later in the afternoon, and it was killing me to miss my mileage day after day after day. So my solution was to forgive myself. I couldn't prioritize running over my other responsibilities and I had nothing else that I felt I could cut out. I let it go.

I am not quite yet able to call myself a runner again. I do not crave the running when I am not doing it. I do not exactly enjoy the running while I am doing it. I do not itch to leave the house in the chill of February. BUT when I have been out running I feel so much better that it keeps me coming back and back. I am taller, stronger, and leaner for the whole day after I get out. I have more energy the next day. I just need the smart part of my brain to keep reminding the comfy indoors part of how great it feels after I do it.

It is worth it to me to make the effort. Having voluntarily let it go has taught me more about my personal need for this sport than the involuntary break I took over the summer. Although running itself is still a struggle, I love having run enough to run.

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