I love to run. I did not run cross-country or track in high school but I did run on my own. I ran 10K and 15K races, which my parents never complained taking me to, and I ran my first marathon in high school. If you’ve lived in Phoenix for a long time, you may remember 1986 was the final year of the Fiesta Bowl full marathon. I ran it. Today, you have to be 18-years old before you can even register for a sanctioned marathon.
I continued to run for health and fun in college at ASU and I actually met my husband because of running. We both have Fine Art degrees and, at the time, we were in the same Drawing 111 class. One day I saw Jerry at the Rec Center, running on a treadmill. We struck up a conversation, which led to us arranging a run together that next week. At the end of that run, he asked me out on a date. That run was 28 years ago and we just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in December of last year.
I stuck with running when I got my first job after college. The years ticked by, as did all the miles we ran. We joined Phoenix Fit, trained for marathons and made life-long friendships. We ran year round; at 4am in the heat of summer, and on chilly winter mornings, jumping up and down, trying to get warm, while waiting for friends to show up for a canal run. We never ran fast. Never competitively. It was just a part of our life.
Jobs changed. Vehicles changed. Homes changed. Running was steadfast. I ran 5-6 times a week while my mom was ill and I ran a week or so after my mom passed away. That particular run was by myself and a couple miles in, with thoughts bombarding my every foot strike, the tears started flowing. I was crying so hard I couldn’t keep running. I turned around that day and somehow managed to finish the run. For the next couple months, as I thought about my mom, tears would spring up during runs now and then.
In 2012, Jerry and I decided to do something crazy. We sold our home and bought a 40-foot fifth-wheel RV and traveled for two years. We ran in all the states we visited and worked in. We worked in Yellowstone National Park, where we ran with a handheld water bottle in one hand and a can of bear spray in the other. Before the season even started, while we were training in near-by Gardiner, Montana, one of our morning runs took us along the Gardiner River. On our return, a family of bison had decided to block our only way back. While we waited for them to move, a local woman in a car saw us, and drove her car toward the buffalo until they ambled away. She rolled down her window and told us to hop in. She gave us a lift, dropping us off a safe distance from the wildlife. We ran in Coffeyville, Kansas when we work-camped at an Amazon distribution center and the locals looked at us like they had never seen anyone run before. We ran at Lake Tahoe, where we could go from mountains to beach in a mere 6 miles. As we traveled through town after town, we took time to run, too. In Pocatello, Idaho along the Idaho Falls River Walk, in Cheyenne, Wyoming and at Cherry Creek State Park in Denver, Colorado we ran.
When we came off the road, but were still in the “wanderer” frame of mind, I ran in each state we tried to settle down in. I ran in Colorado. Beautiful, beautiful Colorado. All the trails and altitude training you could ask for. Even the road-running was phenomenal. Shaded sidewalks along Boulder Creek Path continued on for miles. Or if I wanted to get off the cement, the Coal Creek/Rock Creek trails around Superior were readily accessible, even for a weekday run. While we lived in Colorado, I even started a running streak. Jerry had done a streak years earlier and I decided I could do one also. Nothing too crazy. At least 30 minutes (3 miles at my pace) each day, but I could do more if I wanted to.
I kept my streak going when we moved back to Arizona and when we decided to try living in our best friend’s hometown of Ottawa, Illinois. The running there is not too shabby. The I&M Canal tow-path is a packed gravel, recreational trail for cyclists and foot traffic and meananders out of town in both directions for miles. Even in town, neighborhood runs offered up historic homes, downtown shops and tree-lined streets.
All that time. Over 5 years and not one ache. Or twinge. Or pang. Then one day it all came to a screeching halt. I tried rest, ice, massage, stretching and none of it seemed to help. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months and now months have turned into over a year. Insurance, or lack thereof, had postponed a medical diagnosis, until recently, when a good friend of ours, a podiatrist, took pity and said she would take a look. Apparently, I have a bone chip in the front part of my foot, hence the problem with my foot flexing. Sure, I can walk and hike for miles and climb hundreds of flights on the stair-climber, but anyone who is a runner knows, it’s not the same.
I miss running. But it goes deeper than that. The closest word that I can come up with for what I feel is not even an English word. It is the Portuguese word “saudade,” which evokes a sense of loneliness and incompleteness. It translates to “the love that remains” after someone or something is gone. It’s the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure and well being. It can also be described as an emptiness, like something that should be there in a particular moment is missing and that absence is deeply felt.
I’ve started the ball rolling in an attempt to get this problem corrected but to all the runners who might have grumbled this morning, when the alarm went off, or to those who complain that their 800s aren’t fast enough or their long runs not long enough, remember how lucky you are that you get to run. Here are a few other reminders why every runner should appreciate that they can lace up their shoes:
Running teaches us to live in the moment. Stop half way through your next run, and for just a minute, close your eyes and feel your heart beating. Think about what you are able to do and relish the moment.
Running loves you no matter what. It doesn’t matter if you are thin or heavy. It doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow. It doesn’t matter what color you are. It only cares that you are putting one foot in front of the other.
Running uncovers your potential. It makes you think about possibilities. Could you run a marathon? Possibly. Could you run an 8-minute mile? Possibly.
Running is empowering. You decide when, where, how and why.
Running has the power to heal and it’s cheap therapy. No matter what life throws your way, running is a source of comfort and stability. If you start a run sad or angry, you always finish in a better mood.
Running makes hard decisions easier. When you run, your mind clears and solutions often times just pop into your head.
Running makes you grateful. When you run you realize how lucky you are to have two strong limbs to carry you through the best and worst times.
Running is a gift. Remember, there are so many who wish they could.
Running reminds you to breathe. Enjoy the sound of your breathing as you hit your stride. Take in a deep breath and exhale any negativity in your life.
Running is predictable. It is about hard work and dedication. You get out of it what you put into it.
And last but not least, running teaches patience and humility. Just when you think you have running all figured out, you will get injured or have a bad race. My patience right now is being tested by this strange foot injury. But I know running will be waiting for me and I hope I can be lucky enough to run again soon. I will be so very grateful and realize what a gift it is.