Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Will Never Again Claim to Be Back (But at Least I Am Here)

If you’ve followed my writing over the years, you’ll know three things about me
1)      I am a passionate runner
2)      I am a passionate writer
3)      In both running and writing, I have had high points and low points; times when I have been prolific, and times I have been dormant; times when the passion ran over the cup, and times when the cup dried up.

When one has a passion, it is genuine, but not always consistent.  It is a profound truth that passion cannot be faked.  Trying to exhibit passion when it has waned is a futile battle, and not worth the effort.  People see right through it.

After having genuinely felt the passion of both running and writing for years, and after reaching what I felt to be maximum heights in both, the energy that both created left me.  I think that, to some extent, it speaks to my overall personality.  I am the type of person who is very goal oriented, but upon achieving the goal, I move on to something else rather than trying to extend the accomplishment beyond what it already was. I will never run as fast as I did in my 20s, 30s, or 40s.  I will never even come close again.  I have earned all the writing awards I set out to achieve, and have been published in all the magazines I targeted, so I have no other writing goals. But in the back of my mind, I know I will always be a runner and I will always be a writer.

During my dry spells and through my mental blocks, I tried several times to try to conjure up passion when none existed, hoping that proclaiming its triumphant return would somehow box it in a corner and make it happen.  But as quickly as my “return to running and writing” was announced, it disappeared faster than a one hit wonder.  You can’t box passion into a corner and claim it as yours.

It’s funny how research bares out the truth.  In my mind, I say I have been a runner for a solid 30 plus years, until I go through the piles of running logs, and computerized spreadsheets that reveal a slightly contrasting story, one that has many blank pages paralleling the weeks, or months, or even years I didn’t run within the walls of those 30 plus years.  Although it is true that once you are a runner, you will a runner forever be, it does not mean you are always running.  So in reality, though I say I have been running for over 30 years, it includes several years where I either ran very sporadically or not at all.

A page from week two of my very first running log, 1982.  I still had everything to learn.  For the most part, I still do.

During my years of running, though, I have seen some consistencies as well, as enthusiasm waxed and waned within each decade.  I ran PR’s at various distances in my 20’s, 30’s and most recently, a day after by 49th birthday, when a well-trained me ran a marathon PR.  Granted, the marathon was never my distance of choice or highest success.  Until that race, whenever anyone asked me what my marathon PR was, my answer would be “I don’t know.  I haven’t run it yet.”  But that race was still a shining moment, knowing at the starting line I had done my work, and I was ready to do something special.  And now, I know that it will always be my marathon PR.

But that was 10 years ago, and since then, I have been a runner of extremes, with years where I ran very little, years where I ran more than 50 races, and everything in between.  The running years have been dictated by various outside influences, some of a personal nature, some due to professional influences, and some where my body rebelled.

The last two years in particular, has been very difficult for running.  A career change made it difficult to find the time to run, and various injuries have stopped me in my tracks.  It was last September I was diagnosed with a stress fracture and quickly upon my return, I developed a torn Meniscus, which was a relatively minor injury, but it kept me from running and ultimately needed surgical repair, which was done in April of this year.
During that period of time, there was often a very real feeling at times that perhaps I would never be able to run again, and I’d either have to find something compatible to replace it, or find nothing and grow fat and old and miserable.  This was a very real feeling, and sometimes still is.  But I am gaining renewed hope as the healing process continues, a healing that seems to be about much more than just a knee. 

The first thing I am learning during recovery is that walking is not so bad, and in fact, can be just about as enjoyable as running.  At least now, I know I have a viable back-up if running truly does fail.  The second thing I am learning is that running an 11-minute mile can feel as good a running a 6-minute mile once did, because there is an appreciation that running is a gift, and the gift is not defined by pace alone.  As long as running keeps on giving, I will keep on living.  And the third thing I am learning is to never again be so hard on myself when it comes to running, to just let it happen, without fanfare, and without disappointment that I didn’t squeeze a few extra seconds out of a 5K race.  I’m not saying I won’t have future goals.  I already do.  But the true joy is not in the accomplishment of a goal.  It is in attempting to achieve it.

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