This is a guest post from Bryan F, who wrote a bit to us on Twitter and I asked if he’d like to write a bit more and host it at our blog.
Today I ran 8 miles.
Not unusual for an intermediate runner, or one training for an upcoming marathon.
That’s right. I’m training for the Chicago Marathon. It will be my second attempt at breaking the four-hour barrier. Last year things fell apart after 18 miles and I finished in 4:15, unofficially. This year I’m even more dedicated to the training.
After letting myself sleep in this weekend, I was on the road by six o’clock. My strides began to flow almost immediately and I knew that my legs were fresher than they had been and wanted to take control of the run. “Go Ahead, “ I replied. My mind was heavy and had no reservations about letting the feet carry some of the load. They found a comfortable pace somewhere ahead of my easy runs and under my tempo pace. About 9:30/mile.
The miles began to fly by. While my legs seemed to be churning effortlessly, my mind began to wander.
I’ve been running since high school, but never to any serious degree, so that puts me at 16 years a runner. However it wasn’t until three years ago when I registered for my first half marathon that I began training with any regularity.
Now I thought back to my first 8 mile run. I remember dwelling on it all week but also being very excited. It had been reserved for a Saturday morning, with my sister coming along. We actually planned on running only 7 miles and trying to keep it under 90 minutes.
At that point in my life, every run began the same way, it would take 2-3 miles to settle into a pace. My muscles reluctantly releasing their tightness, making my strides awkward.
Normal breathing would become rapid almost immediately and in just a few minutes my cheeks would be red and burning. My lungs would complain with every gasp that, ‘we shouldn’t be doing this’.
Running was hard work. My body hadn’t yet accepted that I was going to continue to put it through this kind of torture. It hadn’t yet found the joy in logging more and more miles each week.
We carried water bottles and slugged from them regularly. We may have even stopped to tie a shoe or to let my sister catch her breath. For seven miles we pounded pavement and made it back. As we drew closer to home, for some reason I decided that I was going to go another mile.
I continued past the street and did a quick loop of the neighborhood before finishing. 8 miles. Done. I was sore, and sweaty, and exhausted. I was also changed. I had wanted to push my limits. I wanted to go farther, longer, faster. I felt like a runner.
Now three years later, I thought, as mile six rapidly approached, of how much I had changed. Running is not just about staying in shape anymore. True, it’s the majority of my exercise, but its also so much more. No longer are my bones just smashing into the asphalt for as long as I think is necessary to work off the cheeseburger or the few extra beers.
There are tough runs, but no longer do I consider them to be torture. And I haven’t had a cheeseburger in three years.
Running strips you down. With every step less and less of the world exists and more and more of one’s self is exposed. The burdens and worries of everyday life have a hard time finding you out on the road, track, or trail. Everything falls away. I truly believe that on certain runs if you are willing to let go, one comes face to face with one’s very essence.
I’ve had a rough year. Emotionally. Physically. Financially. I know that I am not the only one. Sometimes running takes a back seat, and then sometimes it is necessary. I’ve been able to run when I can. I’m also grateful to be able to run when I need to.
I will never win a race. I will never hold a record. I may never run a sub-6 minute mile. But today, I found that part of me, deep inside that I share with those who can. A common thread among runners, among human beings, that begs one be honest with their selves. It asks that we give all we have. It’s something we all share despite the uniqueness of our bright colors, reflective areas, and fancy shoes. It’s a beauty and a wholeness we all desire. It’s what we chase with every mile. Today I was lucky enough to find it again.
Big thanks to Bryan for his words! If you would like to be a featured guest author, please email firstname.lastname@example.org!