Instead of spending the first half of our week in North Carolina visiting my oldest sister and her family, we were mostly stuck indoors with my poor little five year old boy who had a terrible case of the flu. My little buddy Will wanted to play outside and enjoy the fresh air, but he had very little energy and his fever just wouldn’t quit. It was tricky to balance his needs with those of his two siblings who were both healthy and itching for activities. I kept my inner balance (some might call it *sanity*) by running with my buddies every morning before sunrise. Thank goodness for that.
I don’t want to sound like I didn’t enjoy the time with my kids. Trust me, I DID. I loved all the extra cuddling, the creative play we engaged in together, the family meals and the absence of all the hustle and bustle that eats up so much of our days during the school year. It’s just that by the time the week came to a close, I was completely overwhelmed by everyone’s needs and the nonstop demands they were all placing on me. I felt like everyone was needing something from me 5 seconds ago and I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel like myself. I was emptied of me. And it made me sad.
Sometimes I imagine myself as a cup. When my cup is full, I have so much to give to everyone I love. But when it gets emptied, I feel depleted – I don’t have very much emotional energy, creativity, patience or self awareness. Running helps me refill my cup, fill it up with me. When I am running I can completely connect to the essence of who I am, and fill that cup up so that when I come home I can be there for everyone again. Last week was just a really tough week – we all have weeks like that sometimes. I needed a good long run to refill my cup.
My husband recognizes this in me and though I know it is hard for him, he lovingly gives me the time I need to go out on my own to run. Yesterday he gave me 2 hours. I was so grateful. I left the house and started running right away, right from my front door. Usually I take my time and walk to the trail head, but yesterday I just wanted to get going. I couldn’t wait.
It felt so good to run. So good to let it all out on that trail. To let my legs carry me. They were strong and they were powerful. I was moving faster than I normally do for a long run, but I didn’t care. It felt good, so I took it one mile at a time.
Mile 1: 7:42
Mile 2: 7:32
Mile 3: 7:54
Mile 4: 7:44
Mile 5: 7:40
Mile 6: 7:55
Mile 7: 7:57
I realized at about 2 miles in that I didn’t bring anything with me — no water, no nutrition. No Road ID. The fact that I forgot all of this stuff was just another sign to me of how off-kilter I’d been feeling. How badly I needed this run. I never forget this stuff! I considered turning around to go back for it, but knew that if I went back to the house it would be the end of my run. If the kids saw me they would not want to let me go again. So I just powered through.
The first seven miles were beautiful and the fast pace felt effortless. The smile was returning to my face. The heaviness in my heart was lifting. My cup was filling.
When I turned around after Mile 7, I was greeted with some pretty strong wind. I pushed harder against it. It felt good to fight.
Mile 8: 8:09
Mile 9: 7:59
Mile 10: 7:42
My lips were getting dry and chapped from the wind and the sun. I could feel the dehydration. I stopped at a water fountain to take a few sips of water. Water has never tasted so good on a run. I honestly could have stayed at that water fountain for an hour, it tasted so good. But I had 4 more miles to run and I had to get home. I would just do my best.
Mile 11: 7:43
Mile 12: 7:58
At the start of the 13th mile, my body started to tell me enough was enough. The wind was fierce and the sun was hot. I was thirsty and my legs were tired. I didn’t want to give up. I kept pushing, kept fighting. These last two miles were all up hill for me, along the twisty paths not far from where I live. I gave it my all and climbed the hills even though I felt like I was moving at the pace of a snail.
Mile 13: 8:22
Mile 14: 8:59
I finished the run with an average pace of 7:57/mile – feeling STRONG, even though the last two miles were my slowest.
Sometimes a “strong finish” has nothing to do with how fast you are going, but with the fact that you were relentless in your pursuit of your dream. That you didn’t give up when the going got TOUGH. That is how I want to define myself. As someone who doesn’t quit.
I walked in the door feeling like ME again. Feeling strong and clear headed. My cup was full again. And I have running to thank for that.