Someone asked on Twitter last night: Why do you run?
Watching the answers go by was a hugely motiving experience. It's awesome that running is meaningful in different ways to us all.
And then I had this thought. I could give up, you know. I'm hurt, I'm angry, I'm depressed, I'm sad, I could just give up on running. I've been hurt so many times, I could take this as a sign from the universe to just freakin' knock it off.
I could go back to being that 183-lb girl, full of angry discontent, constantly searching but never finding peace. There are tons of us out there, I'd blend right back in. It'd be easy.
I know exactly what my life would be like, because I've been there. I've given up before.
I'd wake up and have to try on 4 pairs of pants before I can squeeze up the zip. Walking downstairs makes me breathe hard. I'd eat my morning breakfast of diet coke and candy bars before driving the 2 miles to work.
At work, I'd buy breakfast again. "I just didn't have time this morning," I'd tell my co-workers as we walked down to the caf. At the register, I wouldn't be able to resist the bag of gummy bears. They'd be gone by mid-morning, plus some more diet coke, plus another chocolate-covered granola bar. "Granola is healthy," I soothe myself, "good for me."
At 10am, we break for coffee. I have tea and a donut - or two - which I eat standing up because I don't fit in the chairs in the caf. I leave before my co-workers, telling them I have to get back to work, but really it just takes me longer to walk the 200 feet back.
Back in the office, some nubile young thing bounds in the door, brilliant and glowing from a mid-morning run. "Phew," I say as I wave away the smell of sweat, "don't you know that running is bad for you?" I'll corner people and explain that I used to be a runner, but it's too hard on the body. I'll tell them I'm much healthier now. As I hear the words coming out of my mouth, I don't even believe myself.
At lunch, I eat a salad, but drown it in bacon and dressing and cheese. I feel guilty about every mouthful, but it doesn't stop me from going back for more.
I'm exhausted by 1:30pm. I never have enough energy to get through the day. I have a few more diet cokes, some candy as a pick-me-up. I take the elevator up one floor for a meeting and am still panting when I arrive.
I have a stressful afternoon, so I stop on the way home to buy a family-size bag of chips and some candy. "I've earned it," I tell myself, "today was extra rough."
At home I climb into bed and devour everything while reading. I nod off and end up taking a 2-hour nap. I'm always tired.
I wake up, hungry for dinner. I order pizza, Thai, Chinese, or go out for Italian. I eat every morsel off my plate and still have room for dessert.
At home, I sit on the couch, panting slightly. I see a commercial for ice cream, empty half the tub into a bowl, and suck it down. I climb into bed, wiped out from my day. I don't sleep well because I wake up often.
This could be my life. I could give up. I could move quietly through life, not making a dent, and the only sounds that the universe would hear from me is the sound of my thighs gently rubbing together as I walk. There would be nothing in my life that would make me feel alive, vibrant, strong. I would just be quietly passing the days until death.
I'll probably fight injury my whole life. My orthopedist says, some people just get injured a lot. He's gonna put my picture on the poster. I might never complete that half-marathon I've done 80% of the training for a dozen times. My PR might be everyone else's recovery pace. I may never cross the finish line before the guy pushing the triple-stroller with 90-lbs of toddler in it. But without running, I don't know how to be alive. I need to run like I need water, like I need sunshine and breathing, I need to push out the pavement and sweat and cuss and cry and be a champion when I cross that finish line, even if I'm last, even if no one can see it but me. I'm not whole without it, I'm constantly searching for something, something, but I can't find it, and then I get back on the road, and the universe makes sense again. I need to have something to fight for, to struggle against, to triumph over, I need a reason to believe that I'm worth this life I'm living.
I have an e.e.cummings quote tattoo'd on my back, and it's the best and most important thing I've ever done for myself. (this story another time) But there's another quote that I keep telling myself: "To be nobody-but-yourself, in a world which is doing it's best, night and day, to make you somebody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
This is why I run. Because I'll never stop fighting.