For six years I hardly ever thought about running. I thought about other things, like writing and skiing and Pilates and trying to get pregnant (which turned into its own endurance event, one that lasted nearly two years). Then, eventually, mercifully, beautifully, Bronwynn and Miles came along. Their births were the greatest test of athleticism I'd ever known (with the most fulfilling prize). And THEN, I thought about sleep (or the lack thereof).
My body was weary and I was emotionally drained and I wasn't sure I'd ever love running again. I found other, gentler exercises to love instead, like walking, hiking or biking with the kids in tow. But last year we moved to this place in the desert where I didn't know a soul, and to make sense of the move, to make it feel worthwhile leaving so many friends behind, I set some goals. Among them, getting back into the shape I'd been in before I got pregnant. I wanted to feel the strength and energy I'd felt in my 20s.
And so I ran. A mile here, two miles there. I didn't fall immediately back in love. At first, it felt like I was running through three feet of water. I'd cut my runs short and lift weights because I wanted to feel strong, not weak. But (thanks in part to the lifting) the running gradually became easier. I stopped simply looking forward to the hot shower and chocolate protein shake at the end of my workout. I began to look for ways to add more miles to my runs and more pounds to my lifts.
My body remembered.
When you feel weak and isolated, exercise can make you feel powerful. The rhythm of your feet, the sound of your breath becomes your voice. It's hard to criticize yourself as you swing a kettlebell or tick off a mile. You pass people on the trail or sidewalk and you feel a connection with them. You see familiar faces at the gym and you remember you're not alone in the world. For a brief time you're singularly focused on yourself and the task before you. All other concerns fall away. As a woman, and especially as a mother, that's fuel for the soul.
This past Sunday I was most certainly not alone. I was one of roughly 30,000 people who ran the Phoenix Rock 'n' Roll half marathon. Some dear friends drove from afar and we ran it together. Serendipitously, I saw my next door neighbor at the starting line. Friends among so many strangers, with live music and cheering fans carrying us through each and every mile. 13.1 in all.
A couple weeks ago, I posted my playlist here and it's making its way around Pinterest, which also makes me smile. Strangers listening to the same songs I listened to on course. I'm starting to think about my next run, my next event, my next chance to connect with something I thought I'd lost.