I haven’t written here in about two months.
I’ve been trying to write this post for some time now – sifting through topic ideas, typing and deleting – and nothing has come to fruition. Call it writer’s block or a simple lack of inspiration, but something has halted my desire to write.
It happens occasionally, and that’s okay. But life continues regardless. Lately, my family relocated across the country and we’re now living on the east coast again. Because of that, things have been in an upheaval. The house still needs organizing, interior decor remains unhung, and the family’s schedule has yet to solidify.
But between setting up a new house, getting acquainted with the area, and acclimating ourselves to our new lives, one thing has remained a constant – my need to run.
Today is one of those days I contemplate why I do what I do. Why I run. I know I’ll never be the best runner in the world. I know there are better, more efficient ways of losing my extra weight.
My clothes stink, my hair’s always a mess, and I always end up drenched in sweat. Half the time I want to stop running, turn around and walk home and straight into bed. There are days I want to sit on the side of the road and wait for my husband to pick me up in the car because I don’t think I’ll make it back on my own two feet.
So why do I do this to myself day after day, week after week? Why put myself through all of the pain, all of the tears? (Yes, sometimes there are tears).
Last week I ran a tempo run on the treadmill. Basically, a tempo run is running at the speed you can maintain for an hour. I was going to do four miles and had to quit at 2.75 because my legs ache horribly from overtraining. I hobbled back from my neighborhood gym and threw ice packs on my legs, shaking my head in disappointment. If it weren’t for my leg pain, today’s run would’ve been amazing. My breathing was perfect, my pace was perfect. But that leg pain got me anyway.
As I sat helplessly convalescing on my couch, I thought about why I got into running at all. Surely there must be a reason. I mean, I know why I do it now: aside from the health benefits, I run for some peace and clarity in my mind, to shake off the stresses and worries of the world. I run now to challenge myself physically, to push myself beyond my self-made boundaries and break through the mental barriers of hesitation. To feel that wave of triumph and elation from knowing I persevered through something I didn’t think I could do before. I run to chase the feeling of freedom we so often lose in our day-to-day lives.
But, why did I choose running to do this? I could’ve picked up any sport to immerse myself in – biking, swimming, kickboxing, weightlifting, wrestling – any of these could’ve given me that feeling of perseverance, that endorphin high I crave.
I was never a runner growing up. In fact, I was overweight. (I still technically am, but who’s counting.) The most physical activity I ever participated in was one year of softball in eighth grade, which I’m pretty sure my coach put me on the team because she felt bad. I wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t awesome.
I never even bothered trying out for the high school team.
Instead, my teen-aged talents took me elsewhere. At a young age, my dad taught me to sing. Elementary school saw me landing starring roles in annual school musicals. I shied from the stage in middle school (such awkward years, anyway) but found my place in the soprano section of my school choir. I dove headfirst into singing and by the time I was a freshman in high school, our choir went on a school trip to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Back then I was pretty naive and didn’t quite grasp the importance behind it, but I now often look back at the glory of my high school choir days. I was one of the founding members of our school’s first all-female a cappella group, I won numerous solo auditions, and was often looked up to for my note-reaching capabilities as a soprano (although back then I was also naive to people looking up to me for that).
Singing was my forte, and choir was my favorite class of the day. Our director was often a shining light in a world of uncertainty for me as a teenager, and with her daily radiant positivity and regular silliness, singing became my first stress-relieving exercise.
It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I learned my old choir director is also a distance runner. And I don’t mean she runs a marathon on occasion – she runs 50k’s, trail runs, and all sorts of “never gonna happen” distances.
Oddly enough, I took up running shortly before learning this. At that point I was a freshman in college, focusing more on my studies and finding my way in the world than improving my running skills. When I first started hitting the gym, I bounced between the elliptical and jogging on the treadmill. I found I enjoyed running rather than the elliptical, and stuck to it. However, running (and exercise in general) was never really something I took seriously at first, thus beginning our on-again off-again relationship.
Over the years, my love for running grew. There were times I ran for different reasons – losing weight, remembering a friend I lost along the way, supporting someone else’s endeavors, stress management – but looking back I think my true love of running blossomed from the seed of a different plant. One that, seemingly unrelated, brought a bit of steadiness to my life when all I could see was chaotic confusion and unanswered questions. Perhaps it’s why I can’t run without music – why I feel I need both to perform at my best. And why, even today, I still look up to one of my favorite childhood music teachers.
So to my middle and high school choir director, if you’re reading this, this is my thank you note. Thank you for the teacher you were and still are. Thank you for handing me stepping stones I didn’t realize I had until now. Thank you for your positivity and enthusiasm in my early years, and your tips and advice today.
Thank you for being the hidden inspiration I always needed.