Cut out the early morning jogs. The meet ups with running buddies. Pushing through that last mile. Exploring on foot. Racing in a sparkle skirt.
Cut it all out and see what’s left.
Last week, my friend E ran the Boston Marathon. I found everything I needed to track her and kept tabs on her throughout the day. I watched the elites battle for the win and watched E’s pace change as the weather grew hotter and wondered what it was like for her. After over three and a half hours, I watched as her little figure on the tracking software turned onto Boylston St., and I felt with a thrill the excitement of the home stretch and the promise of that finish line.
I may have cut all of the running out of my life, but what’s left is still a runner.
I’m also a cyclist, librarian, climber, and archivist. This past year and a half, the free time I’ve gained from not running has allowed me to actively pursue these other interests and to broaden my professional skills. It has made me more well-rounded and more effective at my job.
But I still ache to lace up my shoes and go for a run if the weather’s nice or I feel stressed. I ache to watch friends run races while I’m stuck on the sidelines. I ache to run and hike again, and I can’t help but feel guilty about it sometimes. I feel whiney when someone asks how my knee is doing and I start going into detail about how it was good last fall but I returned to exercise too fast and now I’m back to the beginning and probably won’t race again for at least 2 years. I feel whiney because, in the grand scheme of things, running really isn’t all that important. I’m still generally mobile. I’m healthy. I can enjoy life. So many people out there have devastating problems, and I am lucky enough to have so much love, support, and happiness.
I recently watched a rock climbing video about a climber who was tackling a personal challenge on a climbing route in Spain. In the video, he put into words these feelings I’ve been having about running:
“Climbing doesn’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time it gets complicated when your whole identity is wrapped up in it and you put all this value into something so simple and meaningless as climbing a rock…It’s like challenging your self worth.” -Ethan Pringle in Ethan Pringle and La Reina Mora (5.14d)
The acts of running or climbing don’t necessarily have significance in and of themselves, but they are things that we choose to apply our time and talents toward, and as we draw significance from them, they become part of what makes us human.
I’m thankful that I have the life I do, with the luxury to pursue my interests and hobbies for fun, and I’m lucky to be a runner at heart.
While running isn’t important in the grand scheme of things, it’s part of my identity and how I share my life experience. And if that’s what you’re left with after stripping away everything else, it counts for a lot.