Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reigniting My Love Affair with Running

This was originally written in November, but I would like to share it here.

After many months of getting in my own way and trying to battle back, I'm finally back from the dismal abyss of my own laziness. After suffering the loss of a disrupted adoption (very long story), I finally got the kick start I needed to start focusing on myself again. For a long time I'd been consumed with self-pity over my infertility problems, and then with my obsession over getting ready for the baby. But since we never got to bring her home (or even hold her, for that matter), I'm left with an empty nest, a very full but unused nursery, and more time than I know what to do with. Devastating doesn't begin to describe what it was like. I let myself sink into a very very dark place.

A friend encouraged me to join her at spin class very shortly after the disruption because she knew I needed to get out of the house and hoped that the exercise would flood my system with feel-good endorphins. And it worked. I am completely addicted to spinning. The instructor is fantastic and the music really pumps up my energy. I feel like I can push myself physically much more than I ever want to when I'm running. By the end of the hour, I am completely soaked in sweat. It's fabulous.

For a little while, I was afraid that spinning might replace running altogether for me. But since I don't trust myself enough to ride an actual bike out on the actual road (eeek!!), I knew that my love for spinning would never translate to a love for cycling. Running seemed to be slipping away from me and I couldn't do anything about it. Then I went on my first run (for Piper, my dog) after a few weeks of spinning and WOW. It was a four mile out-and-back on a paved running trail through the woods down the street from my house. The first mile is all down hill, the next two miles are mixed terrain but relatively flat, then of course the last mile is all up hill. All. Up. Hill. I hate hills. I hate them with a passion because they make me feel tired and weak and totally useless. Well, they used to.

On that particular run, I bounded downhill for the first mile with great ease. I knew I was running too fast, but I let my legs go and just let gravity carry me. The second and third mile were nice. I slowed down once we got to the bottom and eased into a nice, comfortable pace. For the first time in a long time (since 2006, really) I was actually enjoying my run. My legs felt great, my lungs felt great, my heart felt great. The weather was fantastic and Piper was being an angel. It was fantastic! But I was dreading that hill climb at the end. Usually, I run the dog down hill and on the flat portions of the course and then we power walk the hills. But that day I thought, "No, I'm going to run the hills until I start to get really tired. Then I'll walk. But at least I'll know how far I can get before my legs crap out on me."

There's three big hills. The first is steep and long. The second is really really steep and short. And the last one is moderately steep and very very long. We hit the first hill, slow but still running. We got to the top and I thought, "Damn!" I took a few paces to catch my breath and then picked up to my previous pace. When we hit the second hill, I got nervous. But I kept my focus and managed to push myself to run all the way to the top. "Holy crap!" I took a few paces to catch my breath and then picked up my pace again. And then I picked it up a little more. I felt so good that I picked it up even more. By the time I got to the final hill, I was racing up to the top. With 3/10 of a mile to go from there back to the car, I started sprinting. "Yes yes yes!" I was weightless. There was so much oxygen in the air. I felt like I could run forever and it was amazing.

Poor Piper, who is a smidge on the chunky side and has a very thick coat this time of year, just looked at me like I was insane and tried to keep up as best she could. She made it, but the sprint at the end really wore her out. She zonked out when we got home (which was the point of the run anyway). But I couldn't get over how amazing that run felt. I hadn't enjoyed a run like that in so long. It was like I'd slipped back in time to 2006 when I was retraining after my first marathon..... before the deployments, before the infertility, before the broken dreams of our adoption. It was heaven. I'm pretty sure it's the spinning that's made my runs so pleasurable again. Spin is where I can push myself to build my muscles, strengthen my cardiovascular system, strengthen my core, and really train my system.

So now when I run I can just relax and enjoy the ride. And I remember now why I loved running so much in the first place. Running makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel strong and healthy, like I can take on anything. Running makes me love my body, as imperfect as it is. It makes me feel proud and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Even on days when all I can do is a crappy three mile run, I still ran three miles! And crossing the finish line of a marathon or half-marathon still gets me a little choked up. I hope I never ever lose running again. I love you running. Thank you for teaching me to love myself.

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