On July 4, 2004, I quit smoking. I've never regretted this decision.
On July 5, 2005, I started running. Although regret might be too strong, I wonder about this decision for a few seconds to a few minutes almost every day I plan to run.
Running is hard.
In my defense, I was grieving. The weight of grief (which feels roughly like a dump truck parked on your chest) resulted in my inability to sleep for more than 4 hours at a stretch. Every night I would lay on the couch watching anything on TV until I drifted off to sleep. Four hours later, I'd be awake, staring at my living room ceiling, knowing I'd seen the last of the insides of my eyelids for this 24 hour stretch. So I'd get up and take the dog out to patrol the neighborhood streets for an hour or so. One of the many wonders of dogs is they never complain. So we walked. This wonderful beast of mine walked with me while I laughed and cried and talked to myself. Once, when I couldn't walk for crying so hard I stopped and sat on a curb and just wailed (my sincerest aplogies to the residents of E.Maple Street in Sterling Virginia) and this beast of mine he sat down next to me, leaned on me and waited.
So, I ran longer intervals every week., shorter walking intervals every week. I ran down every street in that Sterling subdivion. I made my first goal to be able to run all the way up the hill on E. Maple. It didn't help me sleep, but it made me feel strong.
Eye of the tiger, baby, eye of the tiger.
I talked about running, I bought clothes for running, better shoes, and the diety-blessed IPOD. There will never be a feeling that competes with the first time I made it up the hill on E. Maple with Rob Zombie singing "More Human than the Human" in my ears.
These are my most favorite memories of running. Not any of the races, not even the one marathon. The first runs. The runs where I learned about my limitations, how to push them, and that sometimes that isn't always smart. I learned that my physical exertion brought me closer to the pain in my life, and closer to the joy.
All of it is connected.
There is a rhythm in running that can soothe my frustrations, or it can be the back beat to pounding out those frustrations. When I run outside I feel small and insignificant but distinctly connected. When I run inside, I use it as a tool to disconnect from all the noise around me, and most importantly the noise in my head. Those first few moments of cool down after a run my thoughts are crystalline clear and as sharp as any blade. Even bad runs serve a purpose, they challenge all that power and clarity, taunt you to come back and try and get it right next time.
Bitch. I. will. be. back.
I'm sure there are people out there who will say physical activity saved their lives. The health benefits of 'just moving' are undeniable. I believe running saved me from a darker fate. I know I got a few good long looks at that fate while cruising the streets of Sterling with a german shepherd. It was ugly and scary there. I believe I ran for my life. I didn't run the grief out of my life, it's still here.
Nothing erases loss.
I ran this morning, one foot in front of the other, rhythm, breathing, pace.
Running made me strong, and maybe I didn't beat grief, but it didn't beat me either.