You start out with this crazy idea. This grand, ridiculous idea to do something you’ve never done before. You have a specific goal in mind, an end date. You’re not sure if you’re going to meet it, but you try your damnedest. You work and you work. You just keep thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep pushing and it’ll all be over soon. You put your blood, sweat and tears into it. Literally. And then the finish line comes. And you not only cross it, you cross it with vigor, with energy and with pride. This thing that you thought might kill you made you a million times stronger. And finally, you are done, after all the time you devoted to it.
But you’re not really done. Because the minute you cross that finish line, you realize you want to keep going. The experience changed your life. That goal and that time dedicated to it isn’t just a blip on the radar. It’s become a real part of you. It’s changed who you are.
If you haven’t felt this before in your life, you’re not pursuing the right things. You need to pursue something that feels right. Something that pushes you. Something you are passionate about. Something that makes you feel most like you.
I’ve felt this numerous times, especially in the past year, which has been truly life-altering for me. But I am writing this specifically, tonight, about running. (I know, I know. You’re tired of reading about how fitness changed people’s lives, blah blah blah.)
When I decided back in September that I was going to train for a 5k in just a month’s time, I knew I was a little crazy. I’d never been a runner, and it was going to be hell. I was fit, yes, and get me on an elliptical and I could crank out a 10k, no problem. But the treadmill? My arch nemesis. Even worse? Road running. It wasn’t going to happen. I cried a lot during that month. I beat myself up, emotionally.
And I cried the day of the race. But those tears were different. They were tears of motivation, of happiness, and of pride. I knew then, the moment I crossed that finish line, that I wasn’t going to stop running. I was going to be a runner.
As the calendar flipped to 2012 a couple weeks ago, I started thinking about things I wanted to accomplish this year. Not necessarily the traditional “resolutions,” but real, specific goals I wanted to reach, and I knew I wanted some of those goals to continue building my relationship with running.
On January 3, I went to the gym for the first time this year. And I ran my little heart out. It wasn’t my best time, but I had this thought when I finished…
When the hell did running three miles get to be so easy and enjoyable?
Instead of feeling like a chore, like a torture method, or like something I had to do, running felt like a leisure activity, a hobby, something I do for fun. I felt amazing after my workout. Until the next day when some mutant head cold invaded my body. I was out of commission basically from then until yesterday, when I finally felt human again.
Tonight, I made my triumphant return to the gym, despite being a bit congested still. I didn’t have high hopes because of being so congested and having been so exhausted for the past nine days, but I was going to try.
I stepped on that treadmill and I felt like I was home. It sounds so dumb, but I don’t care, it’s true. Despite not being able to breathe through one side of my nose, I was able to run one mile without a problem. Then I walked for a bit, then ran another half mile. Some more walking. Then two more intervals of a quarter mile each. Running two miles, granted they weren’t consecutive, felt amazing.
I ran through the blisters I could feel forming, through the bit of weakness I was feeling in my calves, through the coughing attack I knew I was going to have at the end. I did it because I wanted to, and because it makes me feel good, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
When I run, I don’t think about anything else. I have my music playing, I am focused on the “road” in front of me, and nothing else matters. I don’t think about work, friends, family, the news, stress… I think about me. It’s “me time” that I have come to really cherish. I missed it while I was sick the past week. I miss the way it makes me feel physically, mentally and emotionally. I step off that treadmill at the end and I feel refreshed, renewed and ready to take on the world. Running has become part of me in a way I never thought it could.