Running for Love

This is a repost from my old Wordpress blog, some snowy April thoughts from earlier this year. Want to share this here as I transition to this platform, and also because this is a good reminder to myself: run, run, run.

The alarm rang at 6:25 a.m. I stayed in bed for another 15 minutes.

“You gotta run,” my friend said.

“I know, I know.”

The room was grey, there was still some unmelted spring snow outside. I walked to the foot of the bed, where my tote held a jumble of my running gear: leggings, t-shirt, fleece. I took each item out one by one, 75% awake, and while I was putting them on, I contemplated hopping back onto bed or sleeping on the sofa. I knew I desperately needed and wanted to run, but somehow the grey light and anticipation of a -5ºC morning stuck awkwardly and fearfully at my heart.

Thinking about the run, I feared loneliness. Which is weird, because running is meditative, it connects me, roots me. Yet the past few long runs had been underwhelming, mal-performing, slow and trudging, less mindful. Left alone with my running mind I was usually refreshed and inspired, yet the past few runs I’d been left with the less pretty parts of my brain. I put on my Darn Tough socks, slipped on my sneakers, and still I contemplated blowing this week off and going back under the covers.

“You gotta go run,” my friend said again.

After I returned with contacts, I looked at the clock and sat on the sofa for a few minutes. 6:52 a.m.

“I should go run, I need to run.”

6:57 a.m., I left for the door.

My friend said, “have the best run ever!”

I smiled weakly, laughing to myself, Oh yeah, I wish.

The early 7 a.m. winter morning of my first run with the Marathon Team this semester.

Turned out it was the best run I’ve had in a long while. I ran 90% mindfully, with good breath and pacing, with good time, I felt good and proud — and I had those sparks of inspiration that running has always used to fuel me:

Recently I’ve had some old fears creep up on me unsuspectingly, fear that is unhealthy, fear that robs the mindfulness away, fears that stem out of the absolute desire to be more and be better and be closer to who I want to be but realizing I am far, fear that Others are doing it right and somehow I’m slipping into mild inertia, inching along drudgingly in insignificant increments, moving nowhere.

Fear, fear, fear — but recently my friend Khuyen has been writing about fear -> love. Rethinking fear as, and to, love. What he wrote has been speaking to me, as old familiar fears have been making their reappearances. Some of his examples: “Fear of not making the most of what is given | Love to make use of everything,” “Fear of not belonging | Love to be part of something,” FEAR to LOVE.

But I don’t want to be driven by fear. I want to love!

I was thinking about fear when I was running — starting out the 7 miles, I feared I would slip back to the rut of the few runs I’d had before –

But also the immediate fear that the two girls behind me would catch up.

Yeah, that.

But I run for myself, don’t I? First and foremost, I run to challenge myself, to exercise, to feel present and to feel good. I’ve always loved running not for competition. But then there’s the ego, saying it wants to get ahead, “Don’t let those girls catch up on you, you can’t be slower than them –”

Fear — that I wasn’t good enough, that I’d slip to the end of the running queue — but what about love? What about love!

Instead of having a jolt of self-consciousness and forcing myself to pick up my pace when I heard approaching running feet (oh no! someone’s catching up!) I looked to the runner in front of me, 50–60 meters ahead of me, and thought, “I love you!” Feelings of loving kindness. I love you, so I want to run closer to you! Let that love to motivate me to run better!

So I ran, but then heard those running feet, the way sneakers bounced from the road, nearing me — I couldn’t un-hear that. And then I wondered if I could reframe it: I hear footsteps, I hear my love ringing louder! Which sounds ridiculous. But it also worked — it calmed my fearful wondering mind, I focused on the motions and presence of running, and find just a little bit more love in me in the running.

• • •

Near the end of the run, back on Boston Ave, I was feeling happy, refreshed, and as soon as I finished I gobbled Coach Don’s fruits and jelly beans and took two parfait cups for good measure. At that point the grey morning fears had seemed like a far away past that has now given way to feeling energized in the cold air but warm sun. And those morning fears were fears of not being able to run well, both physically and mentally but also comparatively, and fears of fears, too, that I’d been a jumbled unpresent panting runner as I’d more resembled in my previous long runs. But this run was great, this run was beautiful, and this I ran for love.