I got home from Mexico exhausted and my little one was ill with a stubborn tummy bug; there was lots of cuddling on the couch together for a few days, and it was Tuesday before I got out for a run.
I still haven’t given up on the thought of a June half marathon, but getting my base established and scheduling the long runs is getting increasingly difficult with travel and weekend plans. A couple of weeks ago, I ran with a girlfriend who used to be a solid minute per mile slower than me; this time, though, I was gasping to keep up with her. She yammered happily away and I wheezed.
These things worry me and when I see happy selfies and blog posts from committed runners, I’m tempted to feel bad about myself. Like if I’m not running at the top of my form, if I’m not keeping up, if I can’t run my best then I shouldn’t be running at all. It’s surprising to realize that this used to be my running philosophy and how I measured myself as a runner! All or nothing.
The Tuesday run reminded me of why I run and why I keep coming back to it. The timing wasn’t perfect – it was fit in during my lunch hour. There wasn’t a watch or music or stretching. The sky was blue and the sun was warm and it was spring. I didn’t run fast and I didn’t run all four miles without stopping. But there were red-winged blackbirds in the reeds and my running shoes made satisfying sounds in the damp sand and gravel at the road shoulder. There were tracks in the mud, deer and ducks, and I wound my way the mile and a half or so to the nearby University Botanical Gardens and in a few minutes was all alone with myself in the sunny meadows and woods. The trail went alongside the brown river and I stopped sometimes to look at things; the purple blossoms in the trees, a pile of glossy feathers from an unlucky duck.
My legs felt strong and I blew my nose in my shirt and was happy to be outside and alone and running, with hawks soaring high above me. I came back to the office bedraggled and blown out and perfectly happy to shower quickly, change back into my work clothes like a costume, and sit at my desk like anyone else, like a superhero in disguise, like a real runner – whatever that is.