Getting back to running

I’ve had many years under my belt as a distance runner. Not a fast runner mind you, but someone who has enjoyed going on long runs and participating in distance races. I’ve run 11 marathons and 18 half marathons plus a number of other shorter races over 20 years.

Running isn’t just something I do or enjoy, it’s something I feel I need. Not in an unhealthy way, like an addiction, but more like something that when I run I feel better as a whole. Running has been my way of moving, of burning off energy, of contemplating things. It’s a time of prayer with God. It’s a time of solitude. It’s a time when I can have some peace and turn my brain off for a bit. It’s a time of exertion. It’s a time of being outside. It’s a time when I can take whatever anger and frustration I have and do something with it. It’s a time when I need to think without distraction. It’s a time to test myself and my limitations.

Running has been a bit difficult in the last year though. I got COVID last year at this time. It was rough. I got COVID about a month after the last half marathon I did. You’d never know that I was in shape to run a half marathon though. I was severely fatigued, had brain fog, and headaches among other symptoms. These lasted for seven weeks. I went on vacation for a month and my body was doing better. But coming back meant long COVID symptoms starting. For me that was a constant painful migraine that did not go away or stop. And the brain fog came back as well.

Throughout this running didn’t happen. I just didn’t feel well enough to run. Add in stress from other sources, and just being was taking my energy.

I did run the Turkey Trot here in Carlisle in November and did a few weeks of training to prepare. It wasn’t pretty, but I was happy to run.

And then I stopped again. I needed to heal. My call ended, which eliminated some stress. My doctors tried out a variety of treatments and medications.

And Spring rolled around. And there was improvement in my health. Healing even. Not 100%, but an improvement none the less. It’s a combination of things.

And a few weeks ago I started running again. It hasn’t been pretty. I knew from the start that this would take awhile to get into a rhythm and have what I need from my body to be in a place where my body can just go for a run and enjoy it. It’s work right now.

I’m typically running slowly for about 1/2 mile or 3/4 of a mile and then stop and walk. Usually I have to stretch my calves, which have been very tight. And then I run more and stop and walk. And again, and again. I total about 3 miles currently.

I’ve dealt with tight calves before – it’s never fun. The calves are usually what cause me to stop and walk, rather than being tired or out of breath.

But I’ve been working on trying to hydrate more. My last run yesterday was pretty good – going about 3/4 of a mile before stretching. And that was the only time I had to stretch my calves. That was pretty exciting.

I typically like to run with music playing. I’ve run without music as well. Both have positives and negatives. Right now, the music offers me some energy and a constant beat to follow. It helps me to shut my brain off. And it gives me a boost in the midst of running to push myself a little further – I often tell myself “just make it to the end of the song before stopping and walking.” It’s enough motivation to keep going. Plus there’s nothing like listening to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC to keep the body moving and get a shot of adrenaline to feel great while you are out there hitting the pavement.

I read an article by Amby Burfoot, the 1968 winner of the Boston Marathon. Amby had a statement in the article that grabbed my attention. He said, “Every mile is a gift.”

Amen to that. Every mile is a gift. It teaches the runner a lesson. It shows the runner what they are made of and what their limitations are. Every mile helps us runners to know ourselves a little bit better. To know who we are and who we aspire to be and to see the difference. Every mile helps us appreciate being outside in nature. Every mile is a gift that allows us to offer praise to God that we can just be out running, no matter how terrible the run might be. Every mile is a gift of healing – something that healing comes in the form of a painful run. Every mile is a gift of solitude – an opportunity to think, to pray, to contemplate, to just be, and to have our brains turned off if need be. Every mile is a gift. And every gift is a mile for the runner.

I’m looking forward to running again tomorrow and couple days after that, and after that, and after that, and on and on it goes. Every mile is a gift. Even when I run on the same path, it’s a gift. When I blaze a new trail, it is a gift. When the run is enjoyable – it’s a wonderful gift. When the run is difficult and painful and disappointing, it is a gift.


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