so is it fear or boredom?
Stay close to anything that makes you feel glad you are alive. ~ Hafez
Last Sunday, I made my way to the trails for the first time since the Brooks-Adi collision last September. It felt…. hard. It helped in a maddening way (more on that later as I get to the point of this post) that I was meeting friends, but it was hard, nonetheless. Since I finally made my return to running in December, I’ve been averaging three miles per week, and those three miles are the three that I lead as part of my Yoga for Runners class on Thursday mornings. Basically, I’m only running the miles for which I’m accountable to people, and until about two hours ago, I couldn't articulate why. My knee, though it’s not at full capacity or entirely stable, is healed enough to run. We’ve had no ice storms to keep me indoors. I can usually be done (or at least able to take a break) by 3pm, so it’s not dark when I get off work. In fact, the trails are less than a five minute drive from the studio, enabling me to easily be on the dirt and home before sunset. All of this to say, I’ve been inexplicably losing at the running game, yet winning hard at the “I’m going to leisurely drink coffee in the mornings while I question my mental fortitude” game - not a game at which I’m wishing to excel.
Fast forward, or rather step forward, a week - another week in which I’ve only run three miles, by the way - and I’m in my car NOT excited to navigate those familiar loops through the woods. WHAT is my problem???? I spent weeks legitimately depressed, mourning the death of my race and months wanting to just be able to run again. I can run again. WHY am I not running again? My footsteps were like a metronome to these words as I slogged over the roots. At least I still had some cadence, I suppose. Normally, it’s to spectacularly bad ear worm songs like Copacabana or Oops I Did Again (thank you/suck it Barry and Britney), but, even so, it’s cadence.
A little more than halfway back to the trail head, I make a stop at the Alaska tree (aptly named after a dead tree I played in as a kid in Alaska, and yes, you read that right) in the name of taking some pics for my website. If one were to dig past that notion of multitasking this run, however, one would unveil a frenzy of next-level frustration from a girl who is really just sitting on a log frittering away valuable trail time. Bugger. I realize this, spend another seven minutes frittering, and then hop down to keep moving forward. This sucks.
A couple of switchbacks later, I hear “Adi, slow down!” Shit! I forgot to call him back. Again. Also, YAY! Someone to distract me from my own head! An old friend of mine, who clearly pays better attention than I do, was also out there on his first official Leadville 100 training run. (side note: That “slow down” comment was in jest, as, if I were going any slower in that moment, I’d have been going backward.) “When is your next walk break?” he asks. I joke that this whole thing feels like a walk break, and we fall into step. Immediately, my breathing regulates, despite the faster pace, and my thoughts follow suit. Gosh… this is exactly what I needed. Why is that? We chatter down the trail and end up finishing out the run together. It took a grand total of three steps outside of the trees for me to start downloading my wild brain to him. If it were most other people, I’d question this uninhibited word vomit, but we’ve been friends for over a decade and he’s not only the very first ultra runner I’d ever met, but he was the one who told me that ultra running is a thing. He’s legit, and he gets it. I’ve seen him circle all outcomes in trail life, both physically and mentally, and he’s still putting one foot in front of the other with an easy attitude and a smile, making it pretty easy to share my quiet dismay. As I was trying to articulate what was happening inside my head, I could feel the words collapsing in on themselves, and I knew that I was getting nowhere, so I just stopped talking. I’d officially reached the pinnacle of my brattiness. “So, is it fear or boredom?” he asks. Fucking brilliant, of course. Don’t give me a way out of the conversation and don’t over-complicate the situation - two things I’ve mastered quite well. “Well, it’s not fear, so I’m going with boredom,” I say. Immediately, I know I’m right. I’m befuddled by this revelation, but I’m right. Suddenly, I’m kvetching about how I’ve always preferred to run alone. “I mean, I enjoy running with others, but really relish - even require - the solo miles. I’ve never used pacers before because I hadn’t felt the need. Quite the opposite, actually. I needed to do it alone. Even when I was a new runner, the company was good when I had it, but it was never required.” “Well, people,” he starts, but I cut him off. “I have NEVER needed the sort of accountability from others like I feel I need now. I don’t like it, and it makes me just not want to run,” I continue. Maybe THAT was the pinnacle of my brattiness. Cue the eye-rolling now. “People change, Adi. You have a really large network of friends who would love to run with you, and rather than looking at your reliance on them as a character flaw (because it’s not), start seeing it as adding another element of fun to your training.” Ugh. Being schooled in perspective, again. With a plenteous dose of gratitude for the re-lesson, I’ll take it. We part ways with promises to do some training runs together, and I head home with a much needed new attitude and a resolve to do this running thing.
So this morning, as I sit here leisurely drinking my coffee, I’m writing this while looking forward to a muddy afternoon run with friends. I’d like to say that I don’t need to share those steps with anyone else, but that still wouldn’t be true. What I can say, though, is that I’m accepting that need and adding the want, because when you love something - even if you don’t like it at times - you do what you must to stay close to it.