After taking a few months off from running following my last race in November, I found myself about mid-March mired in a pit of depression, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. I’ve always known that running does more for my mental health than anything else I do. So, I pulled myself up by my shoestrings, threw on my favorite running skirt, and started the long journey back. And, it’s been a journey. Until I stopped running for a while, I had forgotten just how much it helps alleviate anxiety, reminds me of the beauty of my life, raises my mood, and makes me feel invincible. Truly, after a good, hard run, I feel bulletproof. Work flows more easily, creative thoughts fight with each other to express themselves, the little aggravations of life (like the restaurant that over billed my debit card by $40 and won’t acknowledge the mistake), even the real problems of life lose their power to turn my tummy into a pit of burning anxiety and my mind into a swirling vortex of crazy.
My weekly mileage is still low, my pace is absurdly slow, and until today, every run has felt like a job. Not a fun job. More like a “clean the toilet” kind of job. After it’s been used by men. Still, I’ve continued to plug away. I mean, someone has to clean the toilet, right? I knew that at some point, it would feel a little easier and I would be reminded of why I love to run.
Today was that day.
I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of running. It’s hard, it’s hot, it hurts. Almost always. And, I don’t want you to think that I’m some gracefully gifted runner who flies along the path like a cheetah, feet barely making contact with the ground, hair flowing out behind me. I know some of those runners, but I’m not one. I plod along, scraggly ponytail tucked into the hole of my tattered, smelly running cap. I’m carrying an extra burden of 15 pounds or so that the short hiatus from running and the food trough I fell into packed onto my short frame. Sweat runs down my face in rivers and turns my pale (not creamy) skin into a blotch of red spots that make me look like I have a contagious disease. I’ve never been fast; now I’m positively glacial.
Still, I plod. Then, sometimes, like today, the plodding rewards me and reminds me why I continue to make this journey. A run that had some aggravating factors before and during (not going to expound on that, just think “crazy people” – if you’re in business for yourself, you immediately thought of someone) turned into the soul soothing, sanity producing, anxiety eliminating run that I so desperately needed. I wasn’t running some fun, new route; the earth didn’t move; I didn’t have a celebrity sighting (and, by celebrity, I mean like Meb or Ryan Hall or Shalane Flanagan); I was only marginally faster than Thursday’s run; I didn’t even see any of the cool critters which often brighten my runs.
Even so, my soul was soothed. My mind was comforted. God showed up with His Asics on and ran beside me. Love it when that happens.
If you never want to run, I get that. I would never tell anyone (especially another old broad) that they need to become a runner. What I would tell you is this: If you’re searching for sanity; trying to pull yourself out of the pit; or looking for goals and trying to decide what the next phase of your life holds, you will almost always find the answers on the trail. Walk it, run it, or do some creative combination of the two. Just put one foot in front of the other and move.
Sanity lies just over the next hill.