Thoughts repeated over and over. When I finally dared to look at myself in the mirror, even the bags under my eyes could not fully encapsulate how mentally and physically fatigued I felt. I was weak.
Eventually I fell asleep. Then the next day I woke up. And I ran.
I ran to what would be my new apartment. Set to meet my landlord at 7:30 AM, I was up from bed and out the door within minutes of waking up. Having allowed myself to stay inside for almost 36 hours, I was itching to escape and to literally run away.
So I ran uphill, signed a lease for my future apartment, and ran downhill at a sprinting pace so I wouldn’t manage to be late for work. That run signaled a new beginning.
It’s been more than four months since then, and yet I still think about that day in bed a lot. I needed that day, mainly because I needed that time to get my thoughts together, but also I needed it because it taught me how when even in what you think is your weakest moment, strength still lies within.
I ran that next day. And I have continued to run since then. I’m less than a month from my first marathon, and though challenging, the training has taught me so much. Not only about speed, running form and proper hydration, but also endurance, self-confidence and strength.
Last night I realized just how strong I’ve become. And it came while running in circles.
Yesterday was an evening at the track. We ran modified pyramids: 2 400s, 2 800s, 1 1600, then 2 800s, and 2 400s, for a total of 3.5 miles. I ran the full 1600, a complete mile, in less than seven minutes. I could feel it in my legs, the heaviness and the weight of my effort as I kept pushing through the laps. In my head, a sub-seven mile seemed beyond me, too fast, undoable. Then I did it. And I then I kept running.
Running has made me stronger both physically and mentally. It takes commitment to run more than 25 miles in a week and have an alarm set every Saturday morning for before 630 AM. I’ve learned to say no to night out so I can get a night’s rest, and also learned that some of the best runs come after a stressful day. Now that I’m nearing the end, it’s unclear what I will be doing to fill all the time I’ve spent either running or recovering from a run.
But without looking too far ahead, I know now that I feel strong, in my speed and in attitude. While I haven’t avoided days spent lounging in bed, that time is a much-needed reward for having spent two to three hours outside on a Saturday morning pounding pavement. Running has become both a distraction and a focus in my life. It distracts me during my miles from the other thoughts (work, relationships, stresses from all of the above), while also giving me something to stay committed. It’s become my safety net.
As Kelly Clarkson rightly puts it, “What doesn’t kill makes you stronger.” And until running decides to hurt me, I’m going to keep at it.