There are alot of reasons I run and an even wider panoply of reasons amongst my friends. One recurring theme, though, is about time–time away, time getting stronger, time being something other than mother, sister, wife, daughter, etc. Protected, insulated time. I’ve found running to be very meditative, one of the few times I can be solely in the moment. In other areas of my life, I struggle tremendously with just being in that one moment. My mind races from things to do, things not done, things forgotten, things looming on the horizon. I can’t just BE. During a run, I am only focused on the mile I am in, the steps I am getting through. Even with the marathon, you fake yourself out by coaxing yourself through “just this mile.” You can’t leap ahead to what the next 10, 20, 5 miles will feel like. This is why nothing creates more loathing in a distance runner’s heart than the cheery “You’re almost there!” tossed off by unknowing spectators towards the latter end of a run. Until I see the f*ing finish line, I am NOT almost there. And at mile 20? Almost done?! If I had the energy to slap you for that ridiculous comment, I would. But I don’t, so I just glare and plod on.
You get through one mile-sized bite at a time. Maybe not even the full mile. Yes, you plan ahead and think about it, but you can’t run mile 24 when you’re at mile 4. So you just keep moving through the mile you are in.
And this makes me think about the hundreds of conversations I have had with other women on runs and in other spaces, about how many of us are survivors–and not just in the Destiny’s Child version of Survivor or the awful snarky reality television version of it–but in the deepest levels of meaning for that word. And how we are all moving, running, walking to recover from all that has assaulted us in life. So we not only survive through brute determination or force of spirit, but we also attempt to recover from all of it. To heal and grow and BE.
I think that’s why so many of us FREAK OUT when we are injured as runners. One of our greatest avenues to emotional/physical/spiritual health becomes derailed. We are left like turtles tipped over on our backs. Vulnerable, misplaced, and disoriented. Our goals suddenly seem unreachable, all our hard work pointless. My friend Jenny, who’s been my greatest running friend, has had something which is essentially a stress fracture in waiting. She qualified for Boston last summer (at her second marathon ever!) and she’s been training for this year’s Boston Marathon. She started having pain while running and saw someone right away. She’s been in a boot, had to take time off running, and just had her second MRI. I don’t know what will happen yet, but I’ve seen how she’s had to take a huge step back and listen to what her doctor says. And while it’s difficult, she also knows this is her longterm health–both as a runner and everyday person. I think the most frustrating point for her is the fact that it’s a pre-stress fracture, so she MIGHT be able to run or she MIGHT make it worse. I am so proud of her, though, for doing what she’s supposed to. It’s hard to do what’s better for us, to recover from what hurts us, and to take the time that we all need. To do the work of recovery even when it’s boring or ugly.
So this post is for all us of who have survived, move to thrive, and continue to do the work of recovery. May we all continue to move, walk, and run towards greater beauty, health, and strength. And may we all support one another in doing it.