It’s been about a week since I’ve gone for a run, and even longer since I’ve had a chance to run outside. I was slogging up a hill, breathing hard, and my body had the same reaction it always does — a very clear “Are you trying to kill me?” feeling.
I like to talk about running with my friends. I like to plan my route, I like to look online at different races. But the running itself? Not so much. If I’ve taken even a few days off, I always forget how hard it is, and how much happier I am when it is over.
I know people who get up at 5:30 in the morning and put on headlamps to run. The only time I tried that was in high school, when I wore glasses. In my sleep-induced haze, I forgot to put them on, and ran directly into a tree within the first mile. I am not kidding.
I also know people who set aside a specific time each day just for running and guard it religiously. They won’t nap or return phone calls or run errands or anything else. I admire that dedication. My running time is squeezed in around everything else, and if there’s too much going on – or too many other things I want to do — it gets cut out altogether.
But I’ve found that when too much time passes between runs, I’m not the same person. I’m crankier, quicker to argue, more restless. I don’t go to sleep as well and I’m more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. And then my husband pushes me out the door, or I use the hour I set aside for making dinner and do a quick loop, and when I get back I realize how much I’ve missed it.
I took a few months off from running when I was pregnant with my son, and then when he was born it was the middle of winter, with ice storm after ice storm. When I finally made it outside, it was the longest I’d ever gone without running, and I couldn’t make it a full block without stopping. I thought I’d never run more than a mile again. But each time I ran, I went a tiny bit further — to the next driveway, then the next telephone poll — and by summer, I was back to my original distance.
It’s the same with writing. I spend a lot of time reading about writing, a lot of time thinking about writing, but not as much as I should — or would like — actually sitting down and doing it. And every time I come back to my laptop after time away, it seems too hard, too impossible, to do again. In the days I’ve taken off, my writing muscles have grown flabby. I have to remind myself to take it one word, one sentence, at a time, and then eventually I fall into the rhythm again.
And if I’m lucky, there comes a time with both running and reading when I forget what I’m doing, when the miles are going by so smoothly, the words coming so easily, that it’s as if I’m flying. It doesn’t always happen, and it never lasts long enough, but it creates a memory that keeps me going. Until the next time.