It's been a huge part of my life since I started on July 4, 2006. It's been my friend. It's helped me make friends. It's been my nemesis. It's been an addiction. A lifeline. Therapy. Burden. Opportunity. Buttresser of self-confidence. Inducer of self-doubt.
Running played a supporting role in the breakup of my marriage. It is also how I met my current love.
Running has remained by my side all this time, but it has been a complicated relationship. At some point, after running a marathon PR in April 2011, I lost my zest for training. I didn't want to get up early to run. I didn't want to run every day. I didn't want to run hard. I sure as hell didn't want to race, at least not without pre-fabricated excuses ("my first 50-miler", or "I'm doing 4 long races in 4 weeks") and solid reasons for why my fitness and performance had fallen so far so quickly ("These damned hip flexors!").
But, I didn't want to shed my identity as "a runner". As "the running lawyer". As that crazy guy who runs all those miles, eats & drinks to his heart's content, and always stays trim and toned.
Except that I was living a lie, or at least an illusion.
I've not gone more than a few days without running in the past few years, but I've run less often. And shorter. And more slowly. And, most sadly, I've lost much of the joy and satisfaction which comes from being competitive with oneself, with pushing one's perceived limits and finding new ways of improving, achieving, excelling.
Well, the time has come to reconnect with running, or move on to something else. So, I tried a running streak (and hit 70 days). That helped a little. I guided at Boston. That was an extremely memorable experience. I scheduled another Boston qualifying attempt, at Keybank Vermont City on May 26th, and was following Pete Pfitzinger's 16-week, 70-mile-per-week plan. That went okay, until I fell off the bouldering wall and sprained my ankle.
But a key unknown in all of this has been the question that's tougher to ask than to answer: "Just exactly how much fitness have I lost?" There's only one reliable source to answer that, and it displays its responses in hours, minutes, and seconds. So, I've been on a racing tear, with four races in 14 days. Here's the verdict:
- Flat 5K on May 4 - 20:25 (PR is 18:46); couldn't make my legs move faster than that
- Half-marathon on May 11 - 1:38:55 (PR - 1:26:xx); chewed up and spit out by hills, humidity and wind
- Slightly tougher 5K on May 16 - 20:3x, a personal worst on that course since I became 'a runner"
- 12K (~7.5-mile) on May 18th - 52:44 (a HUGE PR, as I've never raced that distance before), and by far the best race in terms of
making a realistic fitness assessment and executing intelligently . . . suddenly, racing seemed fun again
What does this mean exactly? Well . . . I'm not on a specific training plan. I'm running every single day, though, even if only a few miles. I'm joining friends at the track if I feel like it. I'm racing when it's convenient and close to home. I'm rock-climbing. Lifting weights. Playing soccer, and riding bikes, and playing tag and slacklining with my kids. I call it loosening my grip. Some might call it living.
Where will this lead? I have no idea, but I do know that allowing one's hobby to become a major source of life stress is basically one big failure.
So, what's after Pineland Farms next weekend? Other than probably a couple of easy miles the next day, I have no idea. And I feel much happier about that than I could have imagined.