My running friends have the habit of asking me at the beginning of any race what my goal is. They don't believe me when I tell them that I don't have one. No really. I don't have any time goals. I don't have any PRs to set. No course records to accomplish. No age-group awards to achieve. Not this year anyway. Don't get me wrong... the temptation is there. I know what it feels like to have my name called for an age group or an over-all award, and it feels freakin' awesome. It's an addictive feeling... a feeling worth chasing. But I have, at least temporarily, just for this year (hopefully), traded in the pursuit of speed for another goal, to stay uninjured!
The story of how I became a runner is a story for another day, but I can tell you that I've spent almost all of my time as a runner suffering from one injury or another, to the point that a physical therapist told me that should I continue on my then current path, I would have a few really good years and then probably never run again. That terrified me. I need to be able to run. Come on now, I have five kids... I NEED to be able to run!
So my goals changed. My approach to running changed. This year I have found myself mentally invested not in running as far and fast as I can but in being able to run for my whole life. I have the best physical therapist in the world, who is also a personal friend, so we've worked together (and by "worked together" I mean argued, debated, and I may have stuck my tongue out at her) to reach a compromise that allows me to train for the marathon but in a way that doesn't sacrifice running long term for running long distance. I do all my exercises. I have pulled back, slowed down, done intervals. I have been a good patient.
Until last Monday.
On Monday I found myself needing a change. I felt sluggish, bored, slow, tired of my carefully paced interval runs down the same old trail. I needed a change. Our neighborhood is completely boxed in by a beautiful blue line that marks the course of the Akron Marathon. I decided to chase it for a while before hitting my usual trail head. We've lived in this house for about a year and in favor of trail running, I've never run my own neighborhood. On Monday I headed out from my front porch and took off after that blue line.
I don't know what came over me after that because the next thing I knew I was pounding out seven minute miles, leaping over curbs, Pope's "The Moment" pulsing in my earbuds. I passed a small business district and was shocked at the woman running beside me in the reflection of the store front windows. She was poised and confident. She was fit and she was fast. Several men drove passed her and honked their car horns, "Hey, how YOU doin?!". And for just a few more miles I was that woman.
In that moment, for those few idyllic miles, the time on my Garmin didn't matter. It wasn't about PRs or miles logged, or training plans, or magazine articles, or races, or gear, or starting lines. It wasn't about what would happen in the future, it was about what was happening right now. It was about the concrete under my feet, the air searing my lungs. The sun setting in the distance. It was perfect... and it was fleeting.
Eventually I became aware of my location, got scared that it was getting dark, watched a guy check me out and tripped over my left foot, skidded on someone's gravel driveway, laughed at myself, and headed home at a much slower but more responsible pace. No longer the poised woman in the window, just me, bee-bopping along in a faded 10K t-shirt, my curly hair creating a fuzzy halo around my head in the humidity, scrambling to make the uphill journey home.
Monday's run wasn't about checking off miles on a training plan, it wasn't about safely pursing a goal one small step at a time. It was just about running. It's easy to get wrapped up in all the extra stuff that seems to come along with being a runner. But like any other girl, if running is your mistress, it's important that every now and then, even if just for a few miles, you remind her that you still love her, just the way she is.