Friday, October 23, 2015

Hello, Friend Running

Hello Friend Running, nice to finally see you again.

Well, I know we’ve met a few times since I said goodbye to you last year, but for some reason it just didn’t click. Have you every scheduled a lunch with someone just to satisfy a nagging voice inside that said “you should meet up with so-and-so”? Then afterward it’s a relief to check something off the list, and you’re glad you did it, but the visit itself wasn’t anything special. That’s what my visits with you have felt like. I wanted to like you, Running, and I was supposed to like you, but somehow I didn’t like you very much. On the surface, you were polite, but you kept sneaking in little digs at my ego, and questioning my character. Instead of savoring my moments with you, I kept wishing the visit would end so we could both go home. You weren’t exactly a bore, but you were a somewhat unpleasant companion. Well, in a way you were a bore—but you weren’t a relaxing sort of bore, who obliviously drones on and on, allowing me to lose myself in my own thoughts. That sort of bore can actually be somewhat pleasant, especially when I am too mentally drained for a meaningful dialog. But no, you weren’t a relaxing bore—you were an annoying bore, a bore who expected me to actively participate in our exchange, regardless of whether I was enjoying it.

I wondered what I had ever seen in you.

After being away so long, I wasn’t surprised that our first few visits were awkward—I knew you weren’t one of those gushy sorts of friends who greets me with a big hug and tells me how great I am. Yes, I expected some initial tension, but I didn’t expect it to last so long. Had my extended absence had damaged our relationship beyond repair? I had expected to be gone 2-3 months, but was out much longer. When I finally returned, my visits were sporadic. Sometimes I would let weeks pass between our meetings. So I can’t really blame you for resenting me, or for wondering if I valued our friendship.

Then, on October 1, it finally clicked. It was a beautiful night, rather cool (which probably helped). I hoped to slog through three miles. Nope, that didn’t happen….. no slogging tonight! Instead, I ran five miles without stopping, and enjoyed every step. No more tension between us, just a relaxing camaraderie. And, not that pace matters, but I negative-split the whole thing, without even trying—each mile was faster than the one before. The last mile was at 11:45, a pace I haven’t seen since before my surgery—possibly my fastest mile since the dissertation.

So, was this a fluke, brought on by the first cool night after a Texas summer? I don’t think so. The miracle run of October 1 was followed by a couple others, not as fast but almost as enjoyable. That weekend, I logged 12 miles across a span of four days, a post-dissertation record. Three weeks later, we’re still getting along fabulously, almost like old times. The latest outing was a 6-mile jog on the treadmill. I actually enjoyed it, a big surprise—treadmill runs always seem harder than road runs.

Will it stick? True friends are treasures, and should not to be taken for granted. But I have a feeling Running isn’t going anywhere.