February 05, 2013

An Open Letter to Running

Dear Running,

I've been thinking about you a lot lately—how we used to hang out all the time, and how close we were. Sometimes it seemed you were the only one who understood me. You could tell what I was thinking or feeling before I even said a word. You were such a huge part of my life, every morning, there as reliably as a sunrise, as present as the word "the."

You didn't care what I looked like when we met up, and you didn't care how fast or slow I was so long as we were together. You even laughed at all my jokes.

You were my best friend, Running. I always felt it deep in my heart, but maybe I didn't tell you enough. Maybe you never realized how often I talked about you with all my other friends; maybe you didn't know all the nice things I said about you. I know now that I should have told you every chance I had.

I miss you, Running. Life just isn't the same without you.

These past few weeks, as I've sat here reflecting on our relationship with my foot elevated and wrapped tight in a surgical boot, I've had to come to a definition of myself that doesn't include you like it used to. I know it's not permanent; we may have drifted apart during this difficult time, but I think you and I both know we'll be reunited.

When we do meet up again, I know I'll try to treat you better, and you me. It's amazing how much can happen in three weeks, especially when you have to re-learn how to use a totally fundamental part of your body—especially one of the fundamental parts of the body with which you and I communicate, the part that makes us able to relate and carry on. Part of our shared language. Part of the fun.

I've got three more weeks in this thing, and then, I don't know what'll happen. I don't know when or where we'll meet again, but I know we will. I'm not going to force it, and I know you well enough to know you won't, either. You're too good and loving and patient for that—that's part of what draws me back to you again and again. You always forgive me, you always welcome me back with open arms and an open road.

I love you, Running. I miss you, I love you, and I can't wait to catch up when we both have a chance. We're going to have a great time together, I just know it.

See you soon, and all good things,

January 01, 2013

Next year, new year

Apologies for the silence here, friends, but there has been as much smiling happening as there has been running lately. Which is to say, practically none.

Why? I'll show you why. Take a look at this ol' beauty:

That's right: Bunions. Bad ones. My left food in particular has sidelined me for over a week, though I've been suffering with the brutal thing for several years now. I reckon it's time for surgery, and have a second opinion scheduled for tomorrow. (Wish me good luck and good feet.)

No running means plenty of time to… well, to whinge, first and foremost, but also to spend time focusing on other stuff. Like the elliptical machine and core exercises. Which translates to being bored out of my g-ddamned mind, going to the stupid gym every stupid day.

Wah, boo hoo, First World Problems™. But still. Runners, you understand. The agony of not being able to run! The purgatory of cardio machines and recumbent bikes and those terrible little TVs that every gym is stuffed to the gills with!

I hate it, but I do it. I do it because (a) I know I won't be able to do anything for the first few weeks after this inevitable surgery, and (b) I know that maintaining some level of fitness will help me ease back into running as soon as I'm able again.

In order to glean some enjoyment out of going to the gym, I've started a little incentive for myself: Every time I work out—no matter what it is, so long as it's prescribed as "exercise"—I put a dollar in a jar.

Yes, I've got a Workout Jar. And it's awesome. And it's filling up fast. And it feels so good to put a dollar in this silly thing that I can't help but feel really great about suffering through every excruciating moment spent walking on a treadmill or trudging along on the step machine.

So there's that, and I can slog along. I don't know what I'll do with the dough, and I don't care. Because every time I look at this thing, I think, "See? It's okay. You're not running, but you're doing something great for yourself. You're taking care of yourself. You're committed, you're dedicated. You're living hard and fast and true."

I can do this. I will run again. I am not defined by running, I am defined by my perseverance and my love of life and my commitment to treating my body well.

This is a new year, I'll be a new athlete. And maybe I'll buy myself a new outfit—Lord knows I have enough money in this thing already!

Do you incentivize your running or working out somehow?

November 13, 2012

Marathon #2, or "This Time It's Personal"

Growing up as an overweight, clumsy kid in New Jersey, I hated physical activity. I was slow on the soccer field and bored in the outfield; always the last picked on the team in gym class, always the first chucked out by a flying dodge ball. Whether I was enduring the annual feeble attempt at a Presidential Fitness Award or feigning my period to avoid swimming laps, the thought of having to move at a faster-than-normal pace seemed like torture, like some kind of punishment.

Now, just look at me.

If I could go back and talk to Younger Me, I would have so much to tell her. I'd try to help her forget there were other kids in the gym, and tell her that it doesn't matter if someone else can do 50 push-ups: If you can do three, be proud of that. Be proud of what you can do—whatever you can do. Comparing yourself to other people just scares you. It makes you feel small and useless, a failure, a loser.

You're none of those things. And one day? You're going to love the way that exercise makes you feel. One day, kiddo, you're going to run a marathon. You're going to run for four hours in the driving rain and you're going to smile (almost) the entire time, because you're having fun. Real fun!

And then you're going to run another marathon. In your home state. On your home turf.

My home turf has taken more of a beating lately than I ever took as a fat kid: Hurricane Sandy has severely damaged and in some places completely decimated the shoreline, wreaking havoc up and down the Jersey coast. My family lives there; my sister's house was without power for 11 days. My brother-in-law's uncle's house looks like it got swallowed in pieces by the earth.

Bruce Springsteen went on TV and played music to raise money to rebuild the town he got his start in, Asbury Park. Now I'm going to run 26.2 miles to do the same thing: Raise money toward the recovery and redevelopment of my home state. I worked hard to be a stronger, healthier person, and now I will use that development toward helping New Jersey bounce back stronger and healthier.

Jersey Strong. Let's do this.