Why do I run?
Just over three weeks ago, I ran a half marathon on road. I pushed myself quite hard, but I wasn’t road running fit. I struggled to hold my pace. At the finish, I just had to sit down. I was knackered.
After the race I told my friend who had just run her first half marathon, to take it easy. Take a week off. Let your body recover.
Did I listen to my own advice? No.
The Tuesday morning following the half marathon, I was at CrossFit. I was thinking about my broken toe that I had been ignoring and realised it was quite sore after running a half marathon in minimal shoes. I was mid box jump as I was pondering over my foot and thinking about the next move – rope climbs when POP! I felt what seemed like a hot sharp knife in the back of my leg.
I had done a severe grade 2 tear to the gastrocnemius. 6-8 weeks recovery. 105 days to go to Patagonia – a 250km race carrying all my gear and food that I will need for 7 days. I was (am?) optitimistic. If I can just maintain my fitness as best as possible, that will leave me with 5 weeks to train before flying out to Argentina. Definitely possible.
It’s now been just over three weeks and I have progressed from rest, pain and crutches, to moving around the house pain free, upper body strength work, swimming with a pool buoy and assault bike work outs.
I’m trying to be patient.
Five years ago, a few weeks after running my first marathon, I got a stress fracture in my foot. I had to take eight weeks off running. I took six, then I did myself some permanent damage and had to take 3 months off running. It seemed like the end of the world at the time and years on, I felt embarrassed about that performance. I vowed to never be so pathetic and impatient again.
And yet, here I am, three weeks into an injury and feeling pathetic. I miss running like I miss my mum. Why? This down time has got me thinking. I can still do some workouts, still get my heart rate up and get some endorphins and yet it’s just not the same. So what it is about running that is so special?
At first I thought it was the fact that so much of my life revolves around running – my friendships, my routine, my wardrobe. I thought it was the gap in my social life and the isolation that I might have been bringing me down.
I also know that running is my means to get into nature – to connect with the earth. There are studies that demonstrate that human beings are not meant to be removed from nature. These concrete jungles we live in make us sick. We need to connect with the earth.
So maybe that’s why I’m so sad? I miss my friends and I miss Mother Nature?
Saturday I drove myself to the entrance of a national park and walked just far enough in to get to the first big gum tree. I hugged it and I felt my heart fill with joy. It was momentary however, when I heard terror to my ears – three horrible boys under 10 screaming and shouting. You see, if you hang around the entrance to a national park, you don’t get far enough in to escape the families with young children. I’m all for exposing kids to nature – I just don’t want them near me and I certainly don’t want to be able to hear them.
I left feeling enraged and I realised that whilst I do miss my running friends, I miss being alone more. Running for a long time in isolated locations is the only time I ever really feel alone. I don’t need to check my emails, don’t need to be available for phone calls, don’t need to talk to anyone. It’s the true meaning of “me time.”
The other day I put a call out on Facebook for some suggestions for hobbies I could take up given I can’t run and my other main hobby – music, is also out of the picture as my damaged leg is my drumming leg. I got a lot of great suggestions but reading through them, I thought “I don’t have time for any of these.”
It’s not that I have an abundance of time now that running is out of the picture. I work full time in a demanding but rewarding profession. I study part time. I read a lot and I’m still training – just not running. So I wasn’t looking to fill my time. What I was looking for was something to fill the void.
Growing up I had a lot of energy and at times that has turned into depression, aggression and a whole range of negative emotions and behaviours. When I found music, I felt for the first time that I could be still. I could just purge the emotions and get on with normal life.
When I took up trail running, I got the same feeling but I could never understand why. Running didn’t feel like a creative outlet compared to music. In fact, growing up I had hated sporty people as I didn’t think they could also be creative – you had to be one or the other in my black and white world. But now I get it. It’s the fact that when you go for a run, you can give yourself permission to think and feel and work through whatever it is you need to work through – a bit like writing a song. Work it out, purge it and then move on, get on with everyday life. Having the freedom just to feel for an hour, two or seven – however long you want to run is a total cleansing of the soul.
So that’s it. Without running, my soul feels dirty and my mind clouded. I’m frustrated and angry and not good around people right now – especially children. I know it’s dramatic and I know I will run again, soon hopefully. But the positive in this experience is that it has allowed me to truely understand why it is that I love running so much.