If running were a drug for me perhaps it would be a class C or B. Maybe even it’s more like an alcohol addiction. As a child I hated running, it tasted awful. It tasted embarrassing. I was terrible at it. But as I turned 18 I started to force myself to run, 1km to the farm gate in back. I knew my limits, 1.5km was the most I could and would ever run.
Until, one fine day, a University friend convinced me that running 3km, two laps of my 1.5km block, was possible. I collapsed panting on the pavement afterwards. And so an addiction was born.
I pushed further and further. Over 7 years I went from running 1km to 100km at a time. I had to run. It became part of who I was, who people recognised me as. The girl who did crazy trail races until her toe nails bled and feel off. If I didn’t run for one or two days, I could feel panic rising inside me, I would become fat and unfit. I had to run.
After 7 years of running and running and running. I started to see what I was really achieving with all these hours invested in putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing. I gave my everything to running but I was never going to be Kilian Jornet. I had the drive but not the genetics . No matter how hard and how far I would push myself I was never going to be able to be competitive. I would always be an “also ran”.
It was something that internally crushed me. However, running had been a gate way drug. It had lead me straight to the class As, climbing, skiing, mountaineering. Sports where there was no timer, no competition against the clock, just competition with yourself, the weather, and occasionally the grim reaper.
A few weeks ago, 5 months after my last run with the snow melting and the skies raining. I found myself dusting off running shoes again, lacing them with nerves and apprehension. “What if I couldn’t run anymore?” I wondered silently. It was the longest time in 7 years I hadn’t run.
But as I forced myself to a gentle canter, I slid in to a familiar rhythm. Left foot, right foot. It felt simple, natural, easy. I let myself relax in a way I hadn’t been able to in the 5 months previously. My life was suddenly in my control.
Before the winter, I had ended a relationship with someone who running was a shared passion. Running had drawn us together but also, in someways, pulled us apart. I think part of me I wanted to prove to myself I didn’t need running just as I didn’t need our relationship. I gave it up. I threw it away. I couldn’t call myself a runner, not anymore. I meditated on this as I ran. On things I had let myself ignore and hide from.
After, 40 minutes of running I was back at my door. It I felt like a recovered alcoholic, part of me wanted more. I wanted to run until my whole body ached but I stopped. I proved to myself I can run. I can relax. I can enjoy the cocktail endorphins and cortisol, the time to meditate on my life. The control. But I don’t have to. I don’t need to. I want to.