Running and Writing

I like to write things. That fact is likely made clear by the existence of my nonsensical rambling via this blog.

For one thing, writing things down is extremely cathartic. Any positive feelings or negative feelings or really just anything at all that needs to be “dumped,” if you will, out of my brain is quickly purged out by writing them down. Dumping these thoughts out of my head often provides a strange sense of closure for things that I processed and overanalyzed to death and really just need to get rid of. It’s as though the brain is a sponge, and writing wrings out the sponge.

I’m not much of a diary type person, this blog–or perhaps more accurately, “brain dump”– is about as close as I’ll ever come to that, but I’ve always been a running log type person. Super dorky, I know, but dorkiness is expected from me and I have embraced that.

From the time I started running when I was 15, for some reason I’ve felt compelled to write down every run, the approximate mileage, and any noteworthy events or milestones or just thoughts that I had during or about that given run or race, or about any particular events going on at that given time of life: the first time I ran farther than a mile, the first time I made Varsity in cross country, the first time that I lettered, the first time I ever made State in track and how amped I was—may as well have been the Olympics, the first time I ever got actual running shoes and my shin splints went away, a race I got lost in with a gal who later became the state cross country champion where we ended up in someone’s driveway, that one time this boy totally mangled my heart into a trillion pieces and I was so upset about it that I PR’ed in the mile by—no exaggeration–nearly two minutes (thanks, Aaron!), contemplating whether or not I was good enough to run collegiately, the run I went on after signing my letter of intent when I decided to run in college where even with the small scholarship I got they may as well have given me a billion dollars with how stoked I was, making NCAA Nationals, and runs that I went on with people in high school and college and beyond, who later became my best friends and who I still keep in touch with. Yep, wins and losses and everything in between. Like pictures in a photo album, it somehow always seemed important not to forget these things. Funny how much a sport can change the course of your life.

Yep, I’m a sentimental sap.

Most folks upload their stuff to Strava or Movescount (shameless plug, Suunto! You’re welcome.) or wherever, but I use good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. I’ve got volumes of the things in spiral notebooks squirreled away in a drawer spanning all the way back to August of 2001. There are so many runs where, if I re-read what I wrote, I can conjure up the memory of that very run, even if it was a decade and a half ago. Somehow writing it down made it concrete and gave my memory some sort of prompt to recall what happened that run. There is even one entry back when I first started running in ninth grade during cross country season, where I left the encouraging and uplifting annotation of, “I don’t think I’m cut out for this running stuff.”

So now that I’ve laid out the background, on to my actual story and its subsequent cheesy moral.

So my current job basically entails being a paid vagrant. That said, I spend quite a bit of time out on the road, during which I’m always scoping out good potential running spots. In my awesome territory, there are an abundant number of those. On a recent trip to Albuquerque, I parked in the parking lot of a trail that runs along the Rio Grande River that I’ve run several times now, and it’s perfect for putting in good workouts: flat, crushed gravel, and I believe it spans about 18 miles. In any case, on this particular day I returned from said workout to find the car–with all of its Salomon and Suunto contents–well, not there.

Let me intersperse my story with some fun statistics real quick: did you know that Albuquerque leads the nation in auto theft? Did you know that one car is stolen every 60 seconds? Yes, it’s true! I learned these stats later from the cop who helped me out.

Anyway, so here I am, standing in this empty parking lot trying to recall if I did in fact park here, acknowledging that, yes I did, and being remarkably not at all panicked about the situation because all I could think about was, boom! That workout was awesome! The endorphins floweth freely, I felt like a baller, and I was feeling too high on life to panic.

Thankfully the hotel wasn’t overly far away, so I ran back while trying to process what just happened and what I should do about it. Upon arriving back to the room I saw that I had multiple missed calls from a particular Albuquerque number that I was not familiar with, from a woman asking that I return her call ASAP, so I did. Long story short, it was from a really delightful little lady named Ann, who owned, of all things, an auto glass repair shop less than a quarter mile away, telling me that my car was parked on the side of her building and appeared to have been broken into and she’d found my business card inside and was concerned. So I walk about three minutes down the street, and sure enough there’s the Salomon car, with a busted out window but otherwise unscathed, and conveniently parked in front of an auto glass repair shop as though to apologize for the damage. This was a small miracle given that people who get their cars stolen in Albuquerque do not get them back. Rather, they end up in remote places with dead bodies or meth in them, or perhaps down in Mexico. But maybe a logoed vehicle was too conspicuous, or somebody had a change of heart a quarter mile down the road. Either way, I like to believe in the innate goodness of humanity, so I’m going with the latter.

At any rate, I assessed the damage and the missing contents, which were surprisingly few things given what was in there. Gone was a bag of Suunto watches, a laptop, a plastic mannequin torso (what?!), and….MY RUNNING JOURNAL. I can totally understand someone wanting to steal a car, a computer, and several thousand dollars of watches, makes sense. But a plastic torso and a journal? To each his own I guess.

Anyway, I was super grateful that everything turned out a-okay and that I even met all sorts of really great people in the process who were so helpful. Bless the good people of New Mexico! I was thinking about it later though, and I was a little bummed about the loss of my running journal. SUCH a dumb thing to be even slightly hung up on given how disastrous that situation could have been. But, if you run and don’t upload it to Strava, did the run really happen? Similarly, if you get your running log stolen, does that mean those runs are GONE?

I jest.

So this particular journal went back to October of 2014. It was basically my stream of consciousness from every run for the last two years. I mean, a part of my SOUL is in that journal! Think Harry Potter: Voldemort puts part of his soul into the book that later possesses Ginny Weasly (see: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), well, part of my soul was in that running log, but chances are it’s unlikely to possess anybody. But even more so, and I don’t mean to stereotype here, but I really hope that whoever has that doesn’t read English very well, because there is some seriously batsh*t crazy stuff written in there. I’m actually sort of mortified thinking about it.

Nah, in reality it’s probably in a dumpster.

But as I was thinking about it, with running I certainly do spend a lot of time reminiscing and analyzing, as I think many of us do, thinking about bygone runs and races, and for myself, this has particularly been the case the last couple of years. You are always comparing yourself to who you were at your best, and you always think that you’re going to get the chance to go back and do things again and better this time, but sometimes you just need to meet yourself where you’re at and go from there.

As it happens, the span of time encapsulated within that journal have been some of the tougher, more struggle-filled seasons of running that I’ve experienced, and I’d spent a lot of time flipping back the pages to this time last year or the year before, and fretting and comparing and over-analyzing and what have you, and it may be best that all of those memories are essentially erased, rendering me incapable of brooding over them. After all, why compulsively dwell on things that don’t help you?

Given the recent circumstances, my now most recent journal ends at the tail-end of an amazing season, and now is missing a large chunk of time that has quite a few negative emotions attached to it, and now it will pick up again as things are on the up-and-up. What better way to move forward than to toss unhelpful thoughts into a dumpster? It’s perfect.

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