It’s got me thinking about running, my history, my present, my future of running. About three years after that first marathon, I ran my last marathon, the Houston Marathon in January 2011. I knew as soon as I set foot across the finish line that I was done racing, I just knew it in my gut. I didn’t even write about that race. I was so depleted I had nothing left to give. Friends told me, “oh, you’ll be back in a couple months, you won’t be able to give it up.” I knew better. I was running 70, 80 miles a week and I was just done. I couldn’t imagine trying to get even faster, trying to run more, trying to chase that fool’s gold. I was proud that each marathon was faster than the previous, that I never ran slower than sub-3 hours, that I had put in the work. But I couldn’t stomach it any more, the work, the discipline, the sacrifice. Or the chance that I would get slower, or that my “new goal” would be forever out of reach (as soon as you reached one goal, the finish line would magically get farther, lower, faster).
So I was done and I didn’t run at all for months, didn’t race for years afterward. I gained weight (my family says I finally “looked healthy”), I spent time doing other things, I slept! At first I didn’t miss it. At all. In the years that have followed, I’ve never really wanted to get back to that level, knowing the sacrifice and dedication and pain it would take, but occasionally I would miss the hard workouts, the end-of-race pain, the feeling of pushing your body and mind and overcoming your own thoughts.
Because that’s really what running, racing, is, a mental battle with yourself. To get out the door, to not slow down, to do one more repeat. I often recall with joy the time during one workout (tempo, cut-down, steady state, long run, who knows?) when the urge to just stop and lay down in the grass was so strong, so overwhelming that it was like this other power. I fantasized about just going to sleep right there on whatever trail I was on, then eating pancakes. I didn’t of course, I pushed through those thoughts, but the temptation was so strong that it’s still with me today. But so is the discipline, the dedication, the sacrifice. Those things stay with you.
But they need to be practiced, or that muscle gets weak. I’ve never found anything to replace or replicate that passion and that work I found in running. I periodically play various other sports (basketball, soccer, tennis), I enjoy snowboarding and fishing, but nothing fills that void of training and order I suffered and enjoyed while running.
So now? Now I have trouble just getting out the door to jog three miles, but I usually do. I’ve even done a few fun runs, joined a couple of running groups, completed a handful of track workouts. And every once and again a feeling will come and I’ll push myself on one of those runs (a 6:38 mile!), and I’ll think “I can do it again. I want to do it again.” But I don’t, and that’s ok I guess. I did it once, and if I had to, I could do it again. No really, I could.