For nearly 20 years, I’ve been a runner. I started in seminary; with only a few breaks since then, I’ve enjoyed running as my primary form of exercise. I’ve run in Minnesota winters and North Carolina summers, in the Colorado mountains and on Atlantic beaches. I’ve completed 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks, a 20K, a marathon relay, and two half-marathons. My pace has ranged from 8 to 12 minutes per mile.
Last year, I developed plantar fasciitis. My knee became more susceptible to effusion. I have never possessed what one would call a “runner’s physique.” Thanks to midlife and other health issues, I thought I would have to give up running for good.
This post was originally titled “The Year I Gave Up Running.” Then I started writing about what I have loved about running, and I realized how much I would miss it.
Running has brought me good health. I’ve lost college and baby weight and gained speed and strength. I’ve always been pleased when a nurse takes my pulse, then does a double-take. “Are you a runner?” she asks, to which I proudly reply in the affirmative. I’ve worked hard for my resting heart rate of under 40 beats per minute.
Running has brought me camaraderie. The running community is strong and supportive. Runners share knowing nods when they cross paths on the trail, and there is a special esprit de corps during a race. I’ve enjoyed runs with my husband, with my son, with dear friends, with my small group.
Running has also brought me clarity. Most of my running has been done solo, a half-hour or two of time alone with my thoughts and the meditative rhythm of my footsteps. During those times, I have prayed, wrestled with God, examined my inmost thoughts, rehearsed difficult conversations, solved ministry and leadership problems, thought of blog and book ideas, and discovered just the right words for whatever I was writing at the time.
But as much as I’ve enjoyed running, I thought the time had come to give it up. I actually stopped running in late 2013, and was about to officially call it quits. I wrote a post about how I was giving it up.
Between when I first wrote the post and when it was scheduled to appear, we experienced a brief thaw from what has been a very long, cold winter. As I was heading home from the grocery store one afternoon a few weeks ago, I noticed that it was 60 degrees outside. I also noticed that my foot and knee had been feeling better in recent weeks. I suddenly realized that I just had to go for a run.
I didn’t even unpack all the groceries before changing into running shorts and heading out the door. The next 30 minutes were glorious, in a way that only a runner can understand. I came home exhausted and elated. The next day, my foot and my knee felt fine. I rode the stationery bike just to be safe and to work out sore muscles, but a few days later I laced up my shoes again. That run felt better than the first. A few days after that, I dared to visit a local running store, where I bought myself a new shirt.
Spring may not have completely arrived in Indiana, but the spring has returned to my step. For now, at least, I’ve been reunited with an old companion: the familiar rhythm of running.