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"Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little." ~Cheng Yen


PostHeaderIcon Fear and Envy, in running

Fear And Envy.

The fancy ways of saying what I’m experiencing when I’m approaching a run these days – I feel afraid it’s going to hurt and/or generally suck and jealous of people who get to run without feeling much of the struggle.

I wish it was simply the “I hate running!” crap that I hear from so many runners. Frankly, I’ve never understood that, meaning I think hey, if you hate it why are you doing it? And there are hundreds of sites and memes and mantras dedicated to do it even though you hate it. Again, I don’t understand that. Sure, I’ve definitely experienced runs I’ve struggled through for various reasons, but I don’t loathe or hate or resent running and therefore get some weird high or satisfaction from still doing it. In fact, I avoid that realm of the running world as much as I can – yes, partially it feels negative for what benefit and also, I truly do not understand the ‘why’ behind the method and mentality. I’m beyond grateful when I can run, when I can take each step, when running remains a possibility for me.

Which is why I’m experiencing fear and envy these days. Fear not just around a half marathon – seriously, that’s a whole different kind of fear. 13.1 miles is no joke, it’s a significant amount of steps (approximately 25,000) to tackle or embrace. The fear around a half marathon is almost kind of a motivator – not in the “I hate it therefore I must do it” but the butterflies and nerves the morning of a race (or even while at the expo) that I feel and that push me to the start line. The fear I’m feeling around running right now has gotten to the point of not running – I’m scared I will feel pain in my lungs or legs, or that I will feel nauseous in a way that is debilitating and I have to walk. My runs – when I do them – consist mostly of walking. I can get a run in for about a (slow) mile and a half, and then the nausea starts and it becomes a bit of a battle. Or the pain in my lungs becomes too much and I just can’t push it – there’s a line to cross and then there is a line to not. Bending over at the waist to cough, dry heave, double over in pain – this does not make any run remotely enjoyable and it is scary. This is not what running is or should be.

What happens or what is happening is that I am starting to avoid running altogether – the fatigue is real, sure, and that’s a factor but in hindsight right now it’s feeling a bit chicken and egg. How much am I damaging progress and my baseline endurance ability (and lung capacity) by not running, is it making things worse or is whatever the fuck that’s happening in my body just taking over, no matter what I may think I want to do. It’s beyond frustrating. And yes, my joints and legs don’t seem to be cooperating much either – but again, is that due to lack of running or is it due to whatever the fuck is going on physically? A question that frankly I can’t really know the answer to.

So the fear of what a run will feel like has become a bigger and bigger barrier to me going for a run. What if this one hurts? What if this one feels overwhelmingly lethargic? What if this one takes me back further? This isn’t a case of someone being out of shape so just tough love them military style and say get back out there soldier! It is not that.

And so envy. Bless you. I envy people who don’t think about these things when they run. I envy people who have beautiful healthy lungs and don’t even think about their breathing (I always have) when running. I envy people who can enjoy a two or 10 mile run, regardless of pace, without fear of their body turning on them suddenly. I envy people who can lace up some shoes and get out their front door and just go for a run because they want to.

I also envy the runner I’ve been. In the past. It does sometimes feel like something has shifted, and perhaps permanently. I don’t know that I’ll ever run like I did before. I used to run because I enjoyed it, it felt good, it was good to me, it relieved stress, released anxiety, it was fun to train, it was inspiring to see what I was capable of both in training runs as well as half marathons. Yes, I know as recently as late 2015 and early 2016 I was running like I was in 2011 – swift and health and happy. And given where some running experiences had played out in 2012, 2013 I don’t think I could’ve, would’ve predicted that. Did I get cocky? Oh holy hell no, that’s impossible with this body, but I did enjoy returning to form, or perhaps finding a new gear that agreed with me all over again.

The runners that take running for grated, I don’t resent you, I envy you. While I have only occasionally really taken it for granted given my history (I’ve never not trained for a race, or if my training has waned for some reason, I dramatically shift how I approach the race), the idea that I wouldn’t have to put so much thought into a run, a course, a race…I cannot imagine. It must be so fun to use that energy to push yourself, to explore gear, courses, new ways of running, have conversations while running, use your watch for pacing and heart rate and all sorts of other things. You, if I may, are able to trust your body in a way I’ve strived for but can’t maintain for long.

And so that’s where the fear and envy come in. I know that many other people struggle – I’m certainly not claiming dominance in that field by any stretch – with all sorts of things when it comes to running. And fear their own struggle at times. Hell, I even am starting to fear that I may be done running – and done racing. And there’s no doubt everyone experiences version of envy or feeling jealous of how easy it seems to come for others or how fast someone runs or how much support someone has (I can only imagine what it’d be like to have my own coach!) This is a different kind of envy, because of course during a race when being passed by someone having a full conversation while seemingly breezing through their course, I feel that “hey, I want that!” feeling too. And it’s why I stay post finish to cheer in other runners, because I know how huge it is for each person to cross their own finish line and experience that moment. Perhaps the rest of the races I have planned for this year will play out different, I’m letting go of expectations at this point, simply crossing the finish line needs to be enough.

This fear of running is a strange feeling, as it stands now, and the envy feels more like a longing than anything else. And so I wait for hopefully answers, the pull to give up to subside, the tide to shift with regards to physically feelings. To be continued…

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