A wise and talented writer once told me, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I think Dorothy Parker coined the actual phrase, but in any case there are definitely times when I would apply it to running. Some days I procrastinate for hours because I just can’t bear the thought of putting foot to pavement. And when I finally do drag myself out the door, every step is tortuous, every breath labored. Even the halfway point seems unreachable, and I basically cannot wait for it to be over. Sometimes, like today, running downright sucks.
But other times it is a life-affirming, incomparable experience. All your negative thoughts and energy drift away, and you become perfectly in tune with your physical self. I’ve actually cried during runs…and not from pain. There is singular joy in letting go; it’s the high that keeps runners coming back for more. Those perfect moments are the dragon we can’t stop chasing.
Last year, at age 43, I ran my first marathon. I had only been running for about three years, but I had a few races under my belt, including two half marathons. I am by no means a fast runner (my finish time was 5:32.34), but that wasn’t the point for me. After suffering a foot injury 11 weeks into training, I just wanted to cross that finish line.
I took it mile by mile because I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. My longest training run before I got hurt had been 16 miles, and 26.2 seemed unfathomable. At mile 13, I was thrilled to have reached the halfway point. At mile 20, I started to think I might make it. But it wasn’t till those last 400 yards — when I could actually see the finish line — that I knew I would finish. The elation of crossing that finish line ranks up there with giving birth. Seriously. (Don’t tell my kids I said that.)
As runners, the thrill of finishing the race is our reward for all the tedious hours we spend training. Sometimes we hate running, but we love having done it. So even though today’s huff-and-puff fest of a three-mile run felt like a complete waste of time, I know for a fact that I’ll be back on the trail tomorrow or the next day…or maybe both. I can’t help myself.