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A Complicated Relationship with Running

Updated on July 9, 2015

After more than 40 years, Running and I should have an understanding. It seems we don’t. As much as I have committed to the relationship—over 65,000 miles, thousands of hours, hundreds of races, hundreds more pairs shoes, and yet more often than not these days, Running is isolating me, grabbing me and wanting more and more without allowing me the freedom and I need and want.

Make no mistake, I love Running as much as I did from that initial crush at 16 when I’d escape out on the country roads behind my house for 3-4 miles. Covertly, the union continued every night, through college, under the darkness, careful to let no one know.

That’s because Running then was only popular for those training for something. Otherwise, one steered clear of it. Only bad would result: injuries, chronic knee damage, public scorn, and calls for psychological testing.

But we endured the naysayers. We became open about our relationship, despite my other ties to family and work.

I can never forget how running saved me when my marriage fell to ruins. I could have turned to other alternatives. But I loved Running. I trusted Running. I turned to Running and it not only took me in, it propelled me to invest more, and I witnessed the benefits in not only faster race times and race wins, but as an outlet and sounding board for the turbulence that pelted the rest of my life.

A few years ago, we renewed our covenant to run marathons again and return to Boston.Obstacles aside in 2012 (scorching heat) and 2013 flu that kept me away from the mayhem of the bombing), we made it there in 2014 and again in 2015, united against Winter, an unwanted intruder that always overstays its welcome, as if we ever welcome it—just tolerate its inevitability like a disagreeable relative that shows up at gatherings.

Not that we haven’t had our spats in the past. There have been days and weeks when I wanted nothing to do with Running, when I wanted or needed to just get away, pack my exercise bag and take a short break—biking, hiking, or just mentally peeling away. The times away never lasted long—a day or two. We came back to each other, as fresh and vibrant as in 1975.

Major injuries never came between us. Maybe that was just dumb luck or proof that Running and me were really meant to be together, to enjoy a long healthy association.

Now that connection is somewhat strained. While some days I still look forward to my time Running, most days I dread it. Honestly, sometimes I just want Running to go away, to get out of my life. I know that’s unrealistic. We will never part ways, nor should we.

I only blame myself. Running is just there, not dictating what I should or should not do. Running doesn't prevent from other pursuits. I'm the one that has made it feel like a chore. It doesn't force me to I fret over the miles I think I MUST run each day and week, the times I need to meet for interval and tempo workouts, and the volume of hill repeats I must complete. And only I berate myself when the workouts don’t go as planned--or not at all.

Through it all--amid my compulsion, bordering on obsession, Running says nothing, except I’m here.

And I am grateful for that steadfastness, that reassurance.

No, I don’t have a love/hate relationship with running, only sometimes with my desire to do it. Running doesn’t fuel or starve that. Only I do.

We will persevere and smooth out this rough patch--this hitting of the wall. We always do, for Running is my saving grace.


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