The quickest path to gratitude, at least where running is concerned, might be this:
- Have multiple little kids under age 5.
- Quit your job and stay home with them.
- Watch your alone time disappear. (This part is important. To really make sure you get the full benefit, be sure to always take at least one child with you everywhere you go, even when you use the bathroom. Don’t shower or check the mail or go to the grocery store or do anything by yourself.)
- Keep this up just slightly past the point where you feel crazy. Then keep it up a little longer, until your head feels like it might explode.
Then, go for a run. Alone.
No matter how bad the run is, it’s bound to feel like a small vacation.
(It’s assumed, of course, that you find someone to hang out with your little people while you do this. Otherwise, someone is bound to call child protective services on the crazy mom with the exploding head who just dashed out her front door and down her street with her running shoes on. I can hear the neighbors now. “What was she doing? I think I heard her screaming! Those poor children. Well, you know, I’ve always said she has her hands full.”)
After my 5K comeback at the end of May, I ran only a little in June. I then took the entire month of July off. (Not on purpose. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that I didn’t run at all in July. I meant to. I might have. I just didn’t write any of those runs down. And the way my brain works these days, if it doesn’t get written down, it doesn’t exist.)
By the end of July, I was seriously grumpy. Irritable. Unpleasant. Slightly crazed and bouncing off the walls. I might have thrown a full basket of laundry at the wall. (It didn’t hit anyone. No one even saw me do it. I just think you should know what kind of woman I’d become.)
It might be a challenge to fit in runs by myself, but it’s a true hardship to live with me if I haven’t run in a month. Just ask my husband. (He won’t tell you, but you can ask him just for fun and watch his face as he struggles to say kind and lovely things about his non-running wife.)
Running (especially running alone) restores me. It gives me an outlet for frustration and makes bitter feelings melt away. I sweat out negative feelings and inhale joy. I listen to whatever I want on my iPod, and no one interrupts me. When I come back from my run, I feel like a new person…strong, relaxed, capable of handling whatever comes up.
I’m also just a lot nicer than I was before I left.
So, to restore George’s quality of life (and to avoid scarring my children forever with my irritable outbursts), I have put a training plan on the refrigerator and started running again.
Did I mention I am supposed to be training for a half-marathon in November? Yeah. I am. This one.
This will obviously not be my highest-mileage training ever for this distance. It’s okay. I’m not expecting to PR. If I can make it to the starting line uninjured and strong enough to drag myself over the finish line at the end, it will be just fine.
After all, once I get there, all I have to do for the next 2 1/2 to 3 hours is just run. Alone.
And they will give me a medal for it.
Of all the things I do on a daily basis that might possibly deserve a medal, I’m not sure that running another half-marathon is the most worthy accomplishment…but I’ll take it. I’m also excited that someone is going to hand me food and a drink, and that I will get to consume them by myself (without breaking the bagel into chunks to share or smooshing the banana into baby-appropriate pieces).
My intent is to keep you all updated on how training is going. So far, I’m a bit behind where I’d like to be, courtesy of my unintentional month off. George (the seasoned runner and amateur distance coach) assures me that I can catch up. This week, I’m doing my runs on intervals (3 minutes running, 1 minute walking) to get back into the swing of things. We’ll see how things are going at the end of the week.
For now, I’m feeling really grateful to be back out with my running shoes on.
I’m certain the rest of my family is grateful, too.