Once a Runner

10 Sep

I started running in the spring of 2002. Like, really running. Like miles and miles running. It was the second semester of my freshman year in college and to say I was absolutely miserable would be a complete understatement.

I had always been liked, never had a problem making friends, and college was no different. I bonded with a group of women who lived in my freshman year dorm immediately. We went to meals together, went out to parties together, joked around together, watched The Crocodile Hunter together (RIP Steve Irwin). But then, just like that, everything changed. I could go into what happened but, really, what’s the point. And, honestly, it was all about a boy. A boy who I wasn’t even interested in.

My high school friends were never petty like that. But of course, I grew up with them, we knew each other. We trusted each other. The women I became friends with at the beginning of college weren’t bad people, although I didn’t see it that way at the time. We just didn’t know each other, didn’t trust each other. And insecurity and hormones are strong, strong motivators. So I got cast out. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I didn’t have a community of friends. It still remains the only time I felt that alone. My mom told me that at that time, that spring semester of 2002, she would get anxious when the phone rang. Afraid it was me, crying so hard she couldn’t understand a thing I was saying, afraid that all she could do was try to comfort me over the phone, knowing she couldn’t fix it.

So I started running.

I started running because it was the only thing that made me feel strong. The only thing that made me feel independent. It was a thing I could do, alone, for myself and no one could stop me. It got me through that semester and the years that followed. It was part of what motivated me to return to the same school rather than transfer, part of what convinced me to actively make my own choice, to not give up on something, to find my own happiness. It kept me sane and grounded through the deaths of my grandfather and my grandmother; through heart break; through graduate school; through the past few years of complete and total uncertainty. It has made me feel powerful and like I could do something incredible. I could traverse large swaths of this great city with only the power of my muscles and my mind moving me forwards. I ran marathons, half marathons, 10k’s. I did sprints and hills. I ran with groups and I ran alone.

And then one day I stopped.

I just…. stopped.

It has been a really jarring thing to see this activity, this part of me that has become such a core piece of who I am, just slip through my fingers. I have had to adjust to the limitations of my body, to the trouble I’ve had sleeping, to the problems I have had getting through hard days, to the fact that half the time my mind feels like this restrictive box that I simply can’t escape from. Running has always been my escape. And every time someone asks me if I am still running I say I am. Because I am A Runner. But then again maybe I’m not anymore. I certainly don’t see one staring back at me when I look into the mirror. And every day that goes by I just feel less and less like the Rebekah I have grown into.

But then yesterday I went for a run. A short one. A run that a year ago I would have found utterly pointless, like nothing had been accomplished. And the second I started I just felt right. My body feels right in motion. It settles into the stride so easily. And my mind resumed its old habits. I started thinking about my day, thinking about my run; dreaming about getting faster, going farther; about finally beating that half marathon time that has been sitting there, seemingly untouchable, for years. Man, I killed it that day. And then I thought about this blog. Thought about finally being honest with myself.

Rebekah, are you still running?

People ask. They ask all the time. It’s as if they know, they can see it. And I feel ashamed and so I say that yes, I am always running. But I’m not. The true answer is that I’m sort of running. A few times a week maybe. But not very far or for very long. And I feel weird. My body feels weird. It doesn’t feel like home anymore.

And that’s the truth. I feel weird inside and out. And I think it’s a little bit because I know that there is nothing stopping me from going forward but myself, that I have to get out of my own way, motivate myself out the door. I have to realize that, no, it isn’t going to feel like it used to. It isn’t going to feel freeing and easy and empowering, at least not at first. But I’ve been here before. I started running once, many, many years ago. And I worked hard over years to build up the strength – mental and physical – to get through those miles. And I have come back from injury before. Injuries that took me out of the game for months at a time. Injuries that I had to work myself back from. I did it then and I can do it now. One step, one mile, one day at a time.

Once a runner always a runner, right?

2 Responses to “Once a Runner”

  1. Scott Frank September 10, 2016 at 8:27 pm #

    Your writing always leaves me feeling touched; like a whisper to the heart of a solitary dragon.

    He is alone, guarding the gold, the big pile, from something he no longer is able to recognize, were it ever to appear.

    I adore your insights. I wish we could be closer. What ever you choose to do in your life, if it is only something that you think is simple, know that you have someone at your back.

    If you should ever need a friend, or just someone who will stand for you without question, to the last, that will be me.

    • FranklyRebekah September 10, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

      Thanks, Scott!!!! I appreciate that, and you, so much. Hope to see you soon. Love you!

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