You know, I can still recall the night when we first met. I was alone in my college dorm room, no doubt filled with some sort of young-adult angst. It was late at night, in the middle of an Ohio winter. I found myself leaving the warm comfort of my dorm, making my way down the hill to the track that I could just glimpse from my third-story room at the top of Leonard Hall. At that hour of night, the track was deserted, but a full moon gleamed overhead. Propelled by nothing more than my angst, I began running around the track, slowly at first, then working up to a full-out sprint. Round and round I went, tears from emotion and cold blurring my eyes until I could no longer see the red clay beneath my feet or my legs spinning beneath me.
And running, even though you knew that I subsisted at the time on a diet of cigarettes, cheap beer and bean & cheese burritos, even though you knew that the most exercise I got was stumbling home from a north end campus party to my south end dorm, even though you knew that there was no earthly reason why I would be running and it would feel amazing, you wrapped me in that seductive embrace of yours and on that night, I flew.
Our night of passion was short-lived, however, and I am sad to say that except for a few fleeting encounters on tree-lined country roads during my senior year (remember the autumn leaves? weren’t they glorious?) we wouldn’t meet again feet to road for another eleven years.
Full confession here: I spent quite a lot of time with walking in those eleven years. Sure, walking and I had some good times, but walking was always better when someone else was present too. Walking was a great big snuggly fleece blanket – comfortable and safe. For a while, I was satisfied in my safe cocoon with walking, but eventually I realized just how much I missed you, running.
I tried, multiple times, to reconnect with you, to find that magic again. I would go out to the Marina, and get my legs moving, but something was different. My legs hurt, and I couldn’t breathe. Red-faced and panting, I’d try to catch you, but you were elusive, taunting and teasing from a place I couldn’t quite reach. And when I’d slow to catch my breath, walking would be there by my side. I was weak, and it was easier, to just reach for that familiar cocoon.
One day, though something changed. I heard that a friend of mine on the other side of the country had been spending time with you, running, and that she had done something amazing – she completed a half-marathon. And I was jealous. Not of her accomplishment, but that she had found that connection with you that I longed to have. So, running, I know this is something I shouldn’t be too proud of, but I set out on a mission to make you mine.
It was a simple plan. I would register for my own half-marathon, and I would surround myself with people who supported me in my endeavor. Not only that, I would work towards a cause, running and raising money for cancer research.
Let’s be honest here, running – between my new-found determination and my passion, you really didn’t stand a chance. I think you knew it too.
You met me again in Sedona, two weeks before my half-marathon training officially started. Nervous with anticipation for what my training would bring, I rolled out of bed early even though on vacation, and laced up my running shoes. I went to the hotel lobby, had some coffee and Danish, and headed for the hills. I pounded up paths past deserted vacation homes, drawing closer to the red rock canyons lined with rocky scrub brush. I felt you behind me and around me, your warm wind on my face. Something inside me said that you were finally here to stay.
Since then, running, we’ve had some wonderful times. Whether on roads or trails, short distances or long, you’ve brought that magic to nearly every run. Even though you deserted me in San Diego, you’ve more than made up for it. Sure, there’s been some black toenails, blisters and chafing, but there have been so many moments of pure joy that it makes the blisters worth it. You’ve stuck by me through achy shins, tendonitis, and weird foot problems. Most importantly, you’ve pushed me to go farther and faster than I ever thought possible, and you’ve taught me how to really believe in myself.
Running, I am so glad that I found you again, and I don’t plan to ever let you go. Even if I can no longer run an 8 minute mile, or cover 26.2 miles, I want you by my side. Together, we accomplish beautiful things.