People run for two reasons: they’re either running for something or running away from something. But sometimes it’s a combination of the two.
I’m running to train for the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. I’m in the last few weeks of my training program and so far so good. Well, mostly good. I’ve been experiencing bouts of the “runner’s trots” around mile six.
Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not a technical term for a cool-down jog. On the contrary, the runner’s trots have me making mad dashes for cover in whatever form it make take: house, tree or – please forgive me God – headstone. But that’s another story, and probably one I won’t write about for fear of being arrested.
Just know this: when you have the runner’s trots, nothing else matters. So stay clear.
The first two months of my training program I’d run on the treadmill watching “E! News” or old episodes of “Friends” turned up to Metallica-concert decibel levels. The few times I ventured outside, I’d shove earbuds into my brain and keep pace with Gwen Stefani’s lyrical assurance that I’m “F-ing Perfect.”
But I wasn’t perfect. Far from it. My runs were crummy at best. Afterwards, I’d collapse into the car, cue up Adele to mourn my imperfect run, and drive home to my husband and child who greeted me as if they’d been abandoned (because God forbid Mom disconnects for an hour) – a greeting which was always followed by: “What’s for dinner?”
Of course, I wasn’t disconnecting. Not really. The noise in my ears was drowning out the noise in my head – the stuff I desperately needed to tend to.
“I don’t run with music,” my friend’s father told me. “It’s my time to think.”
Running without music sounded as ridiculous as running without a sports bra, and equally as painful. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s to listen to experienced runners; their race division isn’t called “Masters” for nothing. My friend’s dad wins races. He’s been running his whole life and he probably never gets the trots. I run in cycles. I lose interest. I burn out.
So I decided to heed his advice and put down my iPod. Turn of the TV. I went outside and I ran 10 miles, five of which are through a cemetery that is quite literally dead quiet. It’s not easy. In fact, by the last mile it feels as if someone is hammering ice picks into my knees. But it’s quiet.
I hadn’t realized how loud my life had become. I wake to an alarm or my 5-year-old standing over me like a poltergeist begging to play Barbies at 5 a.m. I fall asleep to “The Daily Show.” During the day I listen to my chatty daughter who thinks she speaks Spanish (she doesn’t) and a husband whose head is filled with useless trivia he’s desperate to share: “Did you know that early civilizations had no concept of zero?” No. And I’m little cooler because of it.
For the first few minutes of my quiet run, I’m not sure I can make it 500 yards let alone 13.1 miles. Then a mile goes by and my suffering gives way to thoughts about my upcoming race, work and even writing. Then I drift into thoughts about my goals, my family and my place in this world. I hear my breath and I feel my pace. Somewhere along the way I even decide to sign up for a marathon. And by the last mile I do nothing more than feel every muscle in my aching body cry as I slap the pavement with my size nines. For the first time in a long while, I feel present. In tune and in pain, but present nonetheless.
This time when I greet my family, I’m grateful for the chatter. I’m grateful for them. I may be physically running on empty, but I’m spiritually refueled.
Now I run from the noise. And I run for myself.