Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Goodbye, my friend Running

A week ago, on Monday, July 28, I ran 8 miles. That’s a really long run for me, these days. Until the last three weeks or so, running has been hit-or-miss (mostly miss), due to fallout from finishing my dissertation. Eight miles was probably a couple miles too long for my fitness level, but I didn’t care. You see, I knew this would be my last Running outing for at least six weeks, and I wanted it to be special.

The day after my 8-miler, an expert surgeon sliced my belly open, removed a misbehaving part, and stuck me back together with 17 staples.

I knew I wanted to get in an extra-long run the night before my surgery, but it took me a week to figure out WHY. At first, I thought it was to prove something…to show myself I could still do it. But that made no sense. I already knew I could get myself in shape to run 15 miles, if I just kept at it. Then, I thought maybe it was some sort of fist-shaking last hurrah, a way of telling my medical problems “ha, you can’t keep me down.” Except they could. I toyed with the notion that an extra 8-miler would add some miniscule bit of fitness, allowing me to return to running at a higher fitness level than would have been possible if I had only run 6 miles. Nonsense, I’m sure. Six weeks ago, when this surgery began to seem inevitable, I resolved to get myself in as good a shape as possible, maximizing my probability of a quick recovery. An extra 8-miler would help, right? No way...the fitness gains come from the recovery, not the stress. With less than a day before surgery, overdoing it was likely to overtax my system, making recovery more difficult.

Finally, I figured it out. That 8-miler was my way of saying good-bye to a dear friend. When Running and I first met five years ago, our relationship was based on mistrust, even active dislike. I found Running to be boring, unpleasant, and demeaning. For some reason, we stuck it out, moving to tolerance, then cordial acquaintanceship, and finally, steady friendship.

When I was feeling blue or discouraged, Running would cheer me up.

When I was worried, Running gave me perspective.

When my mind was overwhelmed with too many things to do and no idea where to start, Running helped me prioritize.

When I was wrestling with a data analysis decision, Running helped me brainstorm.

When I couldn’t figure out a title or leading sentence for my dissertation, Running patiently listened while I tried out endless variations.

When I was stressed or mad, Running didn’t judge me, but gave me space to decompress.

When I was struggling with a difficult decision, Running brought clarity.

When every other area of my life was marked by incompetence, Running gave me a pat on the back for doing something right.

When I was terrified I would fail, Running reminded me Who was in charge, and that I could not fail without His consent.

When I was rude or unkind to people, Running gently rebuked me, and made me apologize.

When I was convinced I wouldn’t meet people’s expectations, Running presented the facts about those people, showing me I was misjudging them.

When I needed time to think, Running gave it to me.

When I needed time away from thinking, Running gave it to me.

When my eyes were turned outward, looking at the monsters around me, Running turned them inward, toward the things I could control.

When my eyes were turned inward, dwelling on my problems and inadequacies, Running turned them outward, showing me how far I’d come and how small my problems really were.

When I disappeared for a while and didn’t make Running a priority, Running welcomed me back (though my absence took a toll on the relationship).

Even when I didn’t feel like hanging out with Running, I was always glad afterward. On nearly all our visits, I ended up in a better and wiser place afterward than before. (Occasionally I miscalculated and spent too much time with Running, throwing off the day’s schedule and stressing out. But that was my fault, not Running’s.)

So, when I found out Running had to go away for a while, I felt compelled to make time for an extra-long visit. It didn’t matter that I waited too late at night to start, and we ran out of daylight. It didn’t matter if I had to take a few walk breaks the last mile. It didn’t matter if my feet hurt, or I had a stitch in my side. On a last visit with a friend who is going away, their annoyances turn into endearing quirks. I just wanted to celebrate our time together.

Farewell, friend Running. See you on the other side.


Dave Renfro said...

This is beautiful. Would you mind if I shared this on facebook without giving your name? Something like, "My sister is not on facebook, but she wrote this on her blog and allowed me to sher it. She was the one who inspired me to start running and it has been just as good to me." This is too good not to be share with a wider audience, but it's up to you. Really well done, sister! Hope you have a speedy and complete recovery!

Dave Renfro said...

"...share it."

Jen T said...

Sure, Dave, you are welcome to share it, with or without my name. Glad you liked it!

Bulletholes said...

Great post Jen! Here's to your recovery...and good friends!

soubriquet said...

Best wishes for your recovery. Running will still be there, and I'm sure it will not be all whiny about "Where've you been, huh?"

I don't run. Asthma all my life has limited things like that, but I can understand absolutely what you're saying here. For me, making things and mending things is my equivalent. And I'm facing shoulder surgery soon, which will stop me doing so many things for a number of months.

Your blogpost helps me smile about it.

Jen T said...

Thanks Steve and Soub, glad you liked it. Ugh on the shoulder surgery....shoulder surgery put me in PT for 9 months, a few years back (before I met Running). Glad you're smiling about it!