It’s no secret that I don’t write about running nearly as much as I used to. I also don’t run nearly as much as I used to. There’s been a variety of reasons for that in recent years: I had back surgery that ultimately led me to give up marathons, I’ve struggled with stomach problems when it seems like training is going well, and I’ve dealt with being overprogrammed and over-worked (by my own fault and admission). It’s been a long time since running has truly been a joy for me.
I’ve thought a lot about why running has felt like a chore. I don’t think it’s a simple question to answer, as there have been many reasons that have made it harder than it used to be. But for several months before I left for Nepal, I was extremely overwhelmed by work and commitments, as I documented here on the blog. I wasn’t running. I was doing whatever I could to get out the door for a walk, or teach my barre classes without a panic attack, but running was not a priority.
I don’t know when it was or what made me think of it, but one day, I had a flashback and remembered what my life used to be like when I started this blog (over five years ago! I missed the anniversary when I was in Nepal, oops). At the time, I was running for at least an hour almost every day of the week and a long run on the weekends. And while that was at least somewhat motivated by my eating disorder and trying to heal from my divorce, the main takeaway was that running was the best part of my day. I relished getting out there. I wasn’t always trying to get faster, or necessarily trying to get faster at all. I just ran because I loved it and because I wanted to. Of course, I had far fewer obligations on my time (AJ and I met about a month after I started this blog, so he’s been there pretty much from the start, but we lived an hour apart for the first 9 months we dated), but still. I loved running.
Running felt fun back then because it didn’t feel like a chore. It wasn’t something I had to do, it was something I wanted to do. I didn’t have so many constraints on my time that taking an hour to run was terrifying and overwhelming. It was an important part of my day that I scheduled and prioritized. There were no excuses not to run, but I didn’t try to make them anyway because I didn’t want to!
When I compare my life then and now, the biggest difference besides the elimination of a lot of my personal issues is that I had a lot more free time back then. It felt like I didn’t, but I did. And that made me think about everything else. I miss having free time. I miss wanting to run. I miss not being quite so addicted to success and achievement. I miss focusing on just one job. I miss blogging because I had something I wanted to say, not because I felt like I had to (although that has gotten better this year). So I thought – what is the best answer to all of those problems? What can I do to change my situation, since I have brought all of this on myself? The answer is to cut back on the obligations I have that are eating away at my free time so that I can focus on the things that are most important to me: my husband, my (growing) career, and my sanity.
To be honest, it’s been really, really hard. There have been a lot of tears, more than one panic attack, and a sleepless night or two. I hate feeling like I’m letting people down, and I don’t like saying no. But in the midst of all of that self-inflicted emotional turmoil, there’s also been a lot of relief. There’s been a sense of a weight lifted off of my shoulders. There’s been a recommitment to the things I declared to be my priorities and a renewed willingness to focus. It’s a good feeling.
And without even really thinking about it or consciously making much of an effort, I’ve felt my desire to run gradually coming back. I’ve gone out 3-4 times per week since coming back from Nepal, even though my time constraints haven’t actually changed yet. I just feel like everything will be ok now, and like running (or anything that isn’t a paid gig) isn’t a “waste” of my time anymore. It’s something I can do if I want to, so I actually do want to. Funny how that works.
I’m not doing long runs yet (that will make this year’s Route 66 Half Marathon interesting), but I’m feeling strong and refreshed. I don’t know yet what goals I will set for next year, or if I’ll set any. Right now, I’d love to get back to the point of being excited about running for an hour 3-4 days a week! That’s happening slowly but surely, and I’m feeling so grateful. It hasn’t been easy to reprioritize, but I think it will be worth it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go for a run – because I want to.