Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Today is National Running Day.*

A year ago, that fact would have hardly registered with me. Today, even though I'm busy getting ready to get on a plane--for a trip that began taking shape when I managed to grab a spot in the only race I've always wanted to run**--I couldn't manage to feel packed and ready to go until I got in a few miles along the river. When I started running regularly a little over a year ago, I'd anticipate my runs with dread and anxiety; now I get anxious when I can't run. I have a whole drawer full of running clothes. I daydream about running. I plan vacations around obscure races in the woods, or just around trails that sound like they'd be interesting to explore. Sometimes I even talk about running. God, I talk about running--with apologies to my wife, who endures everything. So how did this happen? How did this happen to me?

I grew up with a healthy respect for running. My dad was a runner, and I admired the dedication that got him out there every day, rain or shine (OK, we lived in California, so shine, mostly). But if you're any good at reading between the lines, you can probably already tell that I wanted nothing to do with running, and didn't think it was for me. My dad started running about the time my sister and I were born, and he always explained that he had taken it up after his life had gotten too busy to keep up with playing tennis. Running was cheaper, didn't require a partner, and it could happen anytime you had an hour to spare. For me, that said it all: sure, running was a nice way to stay fit, but it was about resignation. When you can no longer do what you really want to do, running will always be there for you.

That was pretty much the attitude that I kept about running, even during those occasional periods--they never lasted long--when I would try to take it up, usually out of feelings of despair concerning my physical condition, or out of a deep longing to regain a feeling that was always with me during childhood, but that has slowly faded over the course of my years: the feeling of not just having a body, but of being a body.

Many times I looked for that feeling in running, but I never found it. I chased it down hot, dusty roads, convinced that if I worked hard enough, sweated enough, suffered just the right form of misery with just the right attitude of humility, that slowly it would reveal itself to me; but it never did. Until one day, it did. So how did that happen? How did that happen to me?

That's a question that I'll try to answer, and a story I'll try to tell, another day. But I can't say when exactly, because I'm still not sure that I know. I'm starting this blog as a way of trying to make sense of that sudden and unexpected transformation in my relation to something that I had long thought I knew well enough that it had no surprises left in store for me. But if that's all I ever talked about here, I'm pretty sure I'd pretty quickly bore the one or two readers that I'm likely to have anyway. So along the way I plan to talk about other things. Running. The people, places, and adventures that keep me running. My own amateur observations and experiments in nutrition. Shoes. And all the other unexpected things that I hope running keeps bringing into my life. OK, now I have to go catch a plane.

*Incidentally, it is also almost precisely the first anniversary of the day I learned to love running, but more on that in a later post.

**More on that soon, too.

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