Week 2 of marathon training is in the books, and it ended on a gray but happy note.
To say I was “meh,” yesterday during my run would be an understatement. I didn’t head out until about 11:15, and I was still kind of full from breakfast and just not in the mood. I came home afterward and was a worthless lump until I started cooking dinner at about 6:30. So I was less than optimistic about today’s run, especially since we had brunch on tap at 10:00 AM, and I was not keen on waking up at the crack of dawn to get my long, slow run in with time to spare for bathing and other basic hygeine.
When I woke up at 7:15 this morning, I was still on the fence. And then I thought about running 7 miles on a stomach full of hollandaise and grits and other assorted brunch niceties. Hot pink compression sleeves. Shoes. Hideous red shirt. Running skirt (thanks to overdue laundry). Watch. Phone. Oh forgodsakes just go do it.
So I drove over to Mt. Pleasant* mentally calculating what my pace would need to be to make it home in time for a shower before brunch. I laughed at the absurdity of that, and resigned myself to be late to brunch, sending my boys out ahead of me. As I got to the top of the bridge, I saw a few guys running in wind jackets and pants and they were all inflated by the wind to the point I wondered if they might float away. I thought, “Yeah, I’m not doing that. Sticking to the flats this morning.”
And then something happened as I got to the fork between my flat course and the bridge. I started climbing. Slowly, yes, but climbing. The wind was brisk but tolerable, and the fog was fine enough not to settle on my clothes. It’s about a mile to the top, and it’s always tough, but I concentrated on landing my feet as lightly as possible, and it really seemed to help. And then I was rewarded with a 1.5 mile decline into the city.
I considered turning back at the bottom and making up the last two miles on the flats in Mount Pleasant. But I kept going. Ran all the way to my old office building. The one where I quit my job without knowing what I would do next. Where I was so miserable I ate the free Cheez-its every day like they were some sort of medicine that could solve my crappy, unhappy existence. The one that was a block from the gym I joined and went to about 5 times. The one where I stuffed myself so full of misery, I looked like I might pop from it. And I just smiled when I turned around and headed back toward the second half of my run. I passed the cars of my old co-workers billing hours on a Sunday and I just let one foot drop in front of the other, light and free.
Of course, for every 1.5 mile decline, there is an equal-and-opposite incline. And I hadn’t accounted for the fact that the blustry fog that seemed to be gently prodding me along on the first half of the run would become a cold, wet headwind on the way back. But as ridiculous as I looked and felt, hands clenched and head down against the chilly, wet torrent, I was having a blast.
I wish I could whisk back in time and tell the unhappy me of four years ago to just get up from the desk, throw on some shoes, and go—screw the weirdo-posh gym where everyone is either a trophy wife or a miserable lawyer—the bridge was there all the time, just like my life, waiting to be conquered. Though I’m not sorry I quit that job and said goodbye to the billable hour forever (I hope), I do wonder if other choices I made over the next three years would have been different if I’d had the benefit of the solitude and sanity I get from running now.
I’m once again mulling career choices, though this time without the sense of chronic urgency that animated me every minute of every day back then. I realize now that I am looking to make more and more of my life like my running. Not easy and not always slow and certainly not without effort; and yet quiet, thoughtful, purposeful, and self-directed. I doubt I’ll ever fully reach that ideal in practice, but without running I don’t know that I’d ever have realized that was my ideal in the first place.
* I always feel ridiculous driving somewhere to run, but I live in the boondocks where the roads outside of my small neighborhood don’t have sidewalks and the speed limit is 50 miles per hour. I can manage a few loops around my lake without going nuts, but there was no way I was grinding out 7 miles looking at the same cookie-cutter townhouses over and over and over and… So drive it was.