02 August 2011

Run Release Repeat

178.4 lbs – So that’s what happens when you stop coping with carbs…

If you haven’t realised it already, running is one of my few passions.  I’m not particularly fast – I will never qualify for Boston – but I can go forever. Running is my meditation. Do not even think about asking me to sit still for 20 minutes and let my thoughts pass through my mind and disappear in the sky. Hell no. I am far too fidgety for that. But ask me to put on my running shoes and my iPod packed with songs from 80’s pop to angry rock, and I can easily sort through my worries and come back with a new perspective on life.

My first marathon medal

I started running when I was in the middle of an awful divorce in 2004/2005. I joined the Running Room’s learn to run program in search of making new friends and getting out of the house. What I discovered is that I much preferred to run alone.  I was a bit like Forrest Gump in that once I started running, I just kept going. Not continuously, but as I reached one distance goal, I instantly set my sights on the next. A 5k race turned into a 10k, which turned into a half-marathon, which of course became a full marathon.  I went from a 5k race virgin to a marathon finisher in 24 months. 
A good long run eases my mind, soothes my soul, and makes me feel like I’m part of the earth again.  My inner pain and worries and anxiety feel like they’re flushed out with every drop of salty sweat on my face. It gives me time to think and reflect.  I also was able to burn off feelings of anger, fear and anxiety. Running gave me back strength and power when I felt my weakest and most vulnerable.  It made me feel like I had accomplished something in a time when all I felt was loss.
With the recent upheaval going on in my life in the past couple of weeks, I’ve needed that release as much as ever.  When Miguel was in the hospital, I found it nearly impossible to get in any kind of movement. My days were spent going between work (I have no vacation time) and the hospital. It seemed selfish to say “Sorry baby, I can’t be there after your cardiac cath, I gotta get in my 8K tempo”. Knowing how important it is to me, Miguel insisted, but I waited until he was home safe and sound before I decided to head out for a run – about a week and a half after everything fell apart. 
I expected the usual rush of endorphins releasing the tension and fear.  Instead, I struggled to breathe. It was hot, and my head started to ache. I got painful stitches in my side and back. My legs felt wobbly.  I kept going, thinking that I just needed more time to find my rhythm, but when I was still suffering at 5k, I threw the towel in and walked the last 2k home. I was crushed.  Not only did I still have the anxiety of a loved one with an illness, but now I had the added pain of losing my high.  How will I deal with all this crap if I can’t get my high?
This is what release looks like
Miguel, in his infinite wisdom, comforted me. “It’s just a bad run” he kept saying.  While normally I’d flip out at the notion that it was “just” anything, this time it actually rang true. It’s a blip. We have blips in out lives that bump us off the trail, whether it’s a heart attack, a marriage ending, a job loss, a crappy run. Things will not always go the way we want or need it to. What’s important is that we put our shoes back on and try again.

And I did.
The next day, when the sun was a little lower in the sky and the heat a little less stifling, I set out on an easy 5k. The first km was iffy, I was a little sluggish and wondered if I made a mistake going out again. But soon after, my legs were pounding away, my lungs were heaving steadily, and the anxiety was pouring down my face - just the way I needed it to.

What is your release?  What do you do to put your head back where it needs to be?


  1. I can relate to this blog post a lot! I made no secret about how much I love to run alone, that in and of itself gets my mind back to where I need to be. But I also take bad runs pretty personally. But it is just a run. But in the end no matter how bad the run or how bad a race is, it always feels awesome to cross the finish line!

  2. I'm exactly the same way. I really like running alone - it helps me work out what I've got to work out, all alone. It's wonderful.

    And I'm much more of a long lasting runner than a speedster. I like that.

  3. Hey!
    Congrats on starting your blog!! I recently starting blogging as well and live in Halifax!

  4. It's funny how some people view their run as social time and others as their alone time. I was always a bit envious of the Running Room people gathering for coffee after their run. I'd be happy to join them, as long as I didn't have to actually run with them. :)

    Patricia - Nice blog! You and I have a lot in common. I'm looking forward to reading more!

  5. A long, long time ago I did love to run and sometimes I run in my dreams and I wake up thrilled.

    Now, I meditate or chant.