I used to be a runner.
Let me be clear, I never ran track or cross country, or anything like that. I picked it up as a hobby in my mid-twenties, and let me be even clearer, it wasn't something I tried once and fell in love with. When I first started running, I couldn't run a mile downhill with the wind at my back—on any given run, there was more walking than running, and there was a lot of exasperated swearing during the running parts. I signed up for and ran my first 5k in 2008—a race I registered for while feeling particularly competitive after a night of revelry. Crossing the finish line at my first ever race felt incredible—it felt like accomplishment, but more importantly, it felt like I was done running.
The next five or so years saw me run countless other 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and even four full marathons. I ran 13 half marathons in 2013 alone, dubbing the event "13 13s in '13", and even got pretty fast during those months and the months in early 2014 I spent training for the Boston Marathon. I don't know if it was the support of the friends I'd made at my running club, or if it was the sense of safety and security I felt running through a city I'd grown to love and know so well during the 13 years I'd lived there, but when I left Boston, running just wasn't the same.
I ran with a running club in Austin a few times, but finding a job created some scheduling conflicts, and I stopped going. At the brewery where I worked, the owner's wife happened to be a badass runner, and invited me to come to her team's track workouts on Tuesdays. The people and the workouts were amazing, but anxiety and self-doubt eventually convinced me that I didn't belong at these workouts, or in Austin. I didn't stop running, but I definitely wasn't running with the same frequency or fervor. Running became something I did because I knew I needed exercise, not because I needed running.
When I first got to Asheville, I decided to go out for a run. I "ran" 2.23 miles, and by "ran", I mean I walked more than half of that, and felt like I was going to vomit, because Asheville is full of hills. Because I'm me, this obviously meant I had become a failure at running, and it was time to retire. For two months, I stuck with workout videos I could do in the privacy of my own home, away from the hills, without the possibility of anyone seeing me struggle. That eventually got really boring, and after receiving a less-than-subtle text message from a good friend regarding my stats on Runkeeper, I decided to lace up.
As dumb as it sounds, my biggest fear after taking two months off was that I'd somehow forgotten how running works, so the fact that my legs didn't break and I didn't fall felt nothing short of a miracle. That said, I didn't feel energized or amazing after that run. Frankly, I felt like shit, I was frustrated with myself that I had to walk a few times, and mad at myself for taking so much time off and allowing myself to get so slow. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a total dick to myself.
On a positive note, my effort to get back into running seems to have inspired Casey. He just bought a bike, and a couple of days a week, we'll go out and run a couple miles at a casual pace, which is very different from going out solo with music pumping through my headphones and the Runkeeper lady taunting me at five minute intervals. It doesn't matter how fast we run, because we're out there exercising together, and that's a million times more productive than sitting on the couch. It's also a good reminder that I've never once seen someone running and thought, "wow, that person is so slow, they probably just shouldn't run". I mean, that's obviously a really shitty thing to think or say in the first place, but also anyone who is making an effort to better themselves in any way is a total badass, regardless of whether they walk for 10 minutes or run ultra-marathons on trails. I need to make it a point to apply this thinking to myself and not just others.
After spending nearly 8 years focusing on going faster and farther, retraining my brain has been a challenge, but celebrating the completion of the run itself and not the stats is starting to feel a little more natural, and now that I am seemingly able to make it through three miles without stopping or throwing up, I may even start doing Sunday runs with the running group I've been Facebook-stalking since I moved here.