Twenty-thirteen will go down as an epic running year for any number of reasons. The biggest, obviously, was the marathon - which, by the way, I had no designs on running when the year first started. It was not a New Year's resolution or even a goal. It was a distant thought, a casual mention that sprouted in the desert heat of July. So if you start this year without a serious running goal, have faith; you never know what you'll sign up for later!
No, the year started with a lot of non-running. I spent the first quarter at boot camp and tennis lessons. I landed myself in physical therapy for all of April under strict orders to stop all activity until my back felt better. (I cheated and still went to boot camp anyway. Shh...) I threw myself into the therapeutic exercises willingly, wanting to get through more than seven miles without aching lower back pain. Taking a break from running was scary; I wasn't sure if I'd go back. What if this was it?
But the therapy worked and by June, my 5K-a-Day Challenge started. Getting through the first three days almost killed me (and my alarm clock). I was a grumpy, sleepy runner that once ate asphalt on Town Center at 5:35 in the morning. I swore a lot that first week. By day 8, I stopped asking questions, ignored the voices in my head, and just kept running.
The conclusion was worth it; spanning three states and thirty days, running across the Golden Gate Bridge was nothing short of spectacular. With August came a new challenge, and while jumping roping 1,000x/day for thirty days was totally boring and painful, I really credit it for strengthening my feet. I also was finally able move past the "double jump" that made me feel like a grade schooler. Moving the rope faster and more confident made me feel like a boxer. Move over, Mayweather... maybe I'll add try some fancy moves in the new year...
In September, the mental importance of this game hit home after a disastrous night run. I purchased no less than nine books on running in an effort to wrap my mind around the task at hand.
Finding out that everyone pukes, gets dehydrated, and wants to die during long runs made me feel a lot better. (I know, that's a weird statement.) I figured out that you have to override your survival instincts in an effort to find reserves you didn't know you had. Terrifying but liberating. Which is why in the weeks after the marathon, I kept saying, "I get it. I really get it!" I'm not sure what "it" was, but in the moment, I knew. I just wish I had written my thoughts down before I forgot and the feelings faded (which it did). Next time, I'm bringing a note pad with me at the finish.
There was a new PR for the Red Rock Half (2:15 with serious elevation), a new PR at a 5K (27:14), and of course, the completion of the big one. I went through four pairs of shoes, ripped two pairs of running pants, ate countless gels, and am in the process of (possibly) losing one or two toenails (jury is still out on whether or not they will fall off). During my first speed workout on a treadmill, I choked back vomit, Nicholas Cage smirked at me, and got zapped by the damn thing. I ran on my birthday, I ran in the dark, I ran when it rained, and I ran when I didn't want to run anymore. Sometimes I ran mad, occasionally I ran sad, but mostly, I ran happy. Through it all, I just kept running.
I managed to stay uninjured, which I attribute to the main overhaul of my diet in the fall of 2013. I took out animal products and subbed in all kinds of exotic-sounding items (to me, at least), like miso, nutritional yeast, and tumeric. Eating primarily plants helped shed ten pounds and soon, moving my frame across this grand Earth felt a tiny bit easier. As I learned, too, running is never easy; but it does get easier.
I think most of all, beyond any of the physical or mental changes running produced, once again, the biggest "win" this year was the reaffirmation of the community to which I belong. While the miles can only be logged by the runner, there are so many others, offering support, sacrifice, and encouragement. I was truly floored by everyone who was so kind to me during the marathon process and cannot thank you enough. You are what made the whole journey worth it. I truly believe running unites us. It puts people together that may have never crossed paths. It certainly has brought an extraordinary number of people into my life and for that, I am eternally grateful. I honestly don't know how I got so lucky. As George Sheehan aptly stated, "A world of all runners would be unworkable. But a world without runners would be unlivable."
With that, friends, I wish you well for 2014. The sense of fullness that running has brought me is extraordinary. I only wish I could share this feeling with all of you, like a giant bag of Skittles. Considering I started this whole thing on a whim in August 2011, I had no idea the process would be so fulfilling. And so damn emotional. Maybe I'll stop crying next year.
Peace, love, and to many more happy miles --
Sometimes the best journeys aren't necessarily from east to west, or from ground to summit, but from heart to head. Between them we find our voice. -- Jeremy Collins