Running Full Circle

After I finished the last run of my 30th trip around the sun a couple of weeks back—which happened to be a hill workout (my favorite) on one of my favorite big hills (High Drive. Happy birthday to me, let’s go run uphill repeatedly.)—I was sitting in the river post-workout in Bear Creek Park and it occurred to me what a whirlwind the last year has been. Seriously. Like, whoa.

I almost had to laugh though, because exactly one year prior, I was coincidentally finishing a run in the exact same spot (I know this because I am a dork of astonishing proportions and I keep a running log that is so nerdily detailed that sometimes I get really embarrassed when I go back and re-read it because I actually wrote those things at one time. Then again, come to think of it, that’s basically the story of my life.), knowing that it would be my last run there for an undetermined amount of time as I was in the process of throwing everything into the back of a Uhaul to go down to Texas to tackle a new job and whatever came with it. Even though I wasn’t running well and my foot was still quite exploded-feeling at that time, I had nonetheless kind of done this “last tour” sort of deal of all of my favorite and most cherished running spots, of which there are many. It took like a month. I get super attached to all these places, it really doesn’t matter that I’ve been in Springs since I was 18, some things won’t ever get old. In any case, I wasn’t really sure when I’d be back, so it was a little bit of a bittersweet time of life, with a weird mix of super-high-stoke-level and anticipation (because shiny new job), yet combined with a lot of trepidation (because Texas) and a bit of uncertainty and nostalgia (because life). While I was really excited for something new and different, I nevertheless promised myself that I’d be back eventually and that it would probably feel like I never left.

Actually I ended up being back way sooner than I expected so needless to say it actually did feel like I never left. Sooo….PSYCH!

Anyway, back to my story of contemplating life while sitting in the stream post-hill session.

Running—like life—has oodles of challenges, as we all well know. Which is of course part of why it’s rad. If you didn’t have a bunch of physical and mental battles to fight en route to improving, it would get rather repetitive rather quickly and would perhaps lose some of the satisfaction  and sense of purpose that comes with trying, sometimes failing, figuring it out, trying again, and then often repeating the process again down the line. It would be “like shooting fish in a barrel” as they say. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

One of said challenges in my own running life that I was not really aware even existed until recently when I was finally able to put my finger on it, revolved around a weird and rather difficult to articulate feeling of being…adrift, I guess you could say. Un-anchored. Rudderless. Unmoored. Floating. Why are these all nautical references?

Allow me to elaborate. Actually, given that this is my blog, I’m going to elaborate till I’m blue in the face whether anyone allows it or not. I mean, my middle name may as well be “Unnecessary Elaboration” anyway.

Excluding time spent on my high school and college teams quite a while ago—which were great times– running has always been more or less been a very solo endeavor of mine and  more or less by choice. Some people hate training alone, but I love it. I don’t really understand that about myself, but at this point I just roll with it. And running is not really something I share with anyone in my life outside of people in my “running world.”

Despite the aloneness with which I’ve pursued running, it has rarely felt particularly lonely to me. I’ve always been fortunate to have the support of wonderful coaches and teammates both collegiately and post-collegiately, as well as friends and acquaintances in our small but very close-knit running community here at the foot of Pikes Peak, which is full of characters and, like the bar “Cheers,” it often feels like “everybody knows your name.”

I also had the great fortune of working for several years in a terrific local running shop that was populated by local runners who put in the miles before (and after) punching the clock every day and who understood well the grind and joy that comes with training and competing and always chasing after that elusive “next level.” It was also home to a fantastic club team that was comprised of more of the same kind of people. So, in a sport where it can be easy to get a bit lost when pursuing it on your own, it was a little like having a perfect little sphere of support and understanding in which to keep chasing after your dreams yet at the same time being able to feel like you weren’t in it on your own at all, that you were doing it for more than just yourself, and that you are not, in fact, a complete freak. Well, that could be debatable, but regardless….good times!

For various reasons beyond anyone’s control, those things more or less abruptly ceased to exist, so cue all of the aforementioned  nautical references regarding feeling slightly adrift, and amplify that with the challenges that come with battling a stubborn, longer-term injury that was super tough to kick, toss in a relocation and life adjustment, and talk about feeling like being up a stream without a paddle and generally slightly out of sorts.

One big take-away of the last year or so and something that I’ve come to have more and more faith in is that the right people and situations will drift into (and occasionally out of) your life at all the right times, and that it nearly always works out. That could perhaps be the most naïve statement ever, and really, maybe it’s just that we end up somewhat creating–subconsciously–what we need around us  (thanks a bunch, psychology degree, for helping me learn to overthink the sh*t out of everything), but I don’t know…I’ve seen a few too many things work out way too neatly way too often to chalk it up to just that.  

While I certainly do miss it, without being as immersed in the small running bubble that I was once part of, I’ve taken significantly more notice of what a great, even bigger, running world that we have here in Springs (and beyond) and have come to appreciate infinitely more the people that comprise it, who always offer their support and who I’ve heard yell for me at races here and there and many of whose names I don’t even know. People who I’ve never met who ask how my running is going, or leave comments on this completely nonsensical blog, or shoot me a message across cyberspace to offer encouragement or whatnot. Sometimes I’m a bit taken aback that anyone is remotely interested, but geez, do I ever appreciate it.

Add this to the fact that I connected a while back with a great coach (David Roche) who has a great group of runners spread across the US (yay S.W.A.P.!) who all watch and genuinely support each other’s progress from afar, and it’s not a whole lot different from what I used to have.

My final warm and fuzzy thought before I wrap this up, is that months ago I was questioning how much and whether to continue to attempt to pursue running all that competitively anymore—at least for a while–simply due what I now recognize as feeling a little too “on my own,” or like I wasn’t doing it for anything bigger than myself anymore, or like I needed to put it all on the back-burner thinking that I needed to become, like, a real grown-up or whatever (I decided that was over-rated pretty much within the first hour). But running is the same as ever, it’s just set in a slightly different context than ever before, because things change. What has not changed, however, is that I’ve always had folks who’ve had my back, all the time, and without all of them I don’t know that I would still be chasing “it,” and that regardless of the circumstances, that’s ultimately always made all the difference.

 

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