I'm becoming obsessed.
I'm reading running blogs, and Runner's World magazine; I'm changing my eating habits and logging all of my workouts on Mapmyrun.com. I went to bed at ten o'clock on a Friday night so I could get up to go running on Saturday before my running partner leaves for Nicaragua. I bought athletic tape yesterday for my shin splints and read a whole bunch of articles on the various causes, and then switched to a different pair of shoes. Then I actually used the athletic tape. I slept in it. That's how concerned I am about my shins.
I love the idea of me as an athlete so much. I think I'm starting to annoy people with how much I talk about it, and I think about it even more than I talk about it.
It's really strange, because I've technically been a runner since I was about twelve, and made the high school track team, but I haven't really thought of myself as a runner until I started training for this race (the half, not the full). I tend to take six-month hiatuses--but apparently, according to all the running blogs and articles I am now reading, that's normal, and the fact is, I always go back to running.
I've just never felt like a runner before.
It means a lot to me right now, because I'm still in one of those friend-drought periods where a lot of my friends have moved away or we have simply fallen apart, and I'm not meeting a lot of people; training gives me something to do. It also gives me something to learn about, and new things to read, and I'm always looking for those.
My father used to run five miles a day, rain or shine. There's a picture somewhere of me when I was about five stretching with him, and looking deathly serious about it, at my grandparents' lakehouse on Canandaigua Lake. And there's another one of me in the same outfit setting out on a run with him along the (highly dangerous and trafficky) West Lake Road where he used to run every summer. I think I made it about five hundred feet and quit, but it's still one of my favorite memories, and the stretching picture makes me laugh every time.
My father's birthday is the day before mine, and this year I asked him, "Hey, Sixty-Two, got any advice for Twenty-Four?" He said, "Exercise." My father is not the kind of person to just throw some random advice out there, so I thought I would take him seriously.
When I was 13 I tore my ACL at soccer practice, and had to take a year off sports for surgery and an old-fashioned recovery (which I resented at the time, because other people with younger doctors were getting out in eight weeks, but when I was still busting ass on the Stairmaster and they came back in with a re-tear, I didn't mind as much). I was desperate to run again. It was the only thing I wanted. And when they finally let me, six months into recovery, my mother would go rollerblading with me on the trail my town had just put in. After our runs she would let me practice driving her stick-shift Toyota Corolla around the parking lot. And now, anytime I come home and the weather is good, she gets out her rollerblades, and we go running.
My grandmother was very athletic, which was something I didn't really know until after she died and everyone started telling stories. I remember she had been very proud of me when I made the track team, and told me she used to win competitions in the standing long jump when she was in high school, but most of the time that I knew her she was limping because of a bad hip. But apparently, when my dad and uncles were young, she used to bike to the grocery store every week, and play tennis quite often. Dad said that it really hurt her not to be able to exercise anymore after her first hip surgery, and that while she was dying she seemed happier than she had been for years because suddenly her body didn't matter anymore. So there is that, too. In so many ways, running, even though I mostly do it three thousand miles away from them, connects me with my family.
Running pulled me out of a mild depression, and it got me through the misguided road trip where I went to see all of my exes, and it helped me learn how to enjoy being where I was instead of always thinking about what was coming next. Running made me shut up and look at some trees. I've always liked running, but I remember saying once, "I'm not a runner, I just run."
But now, I want to be a runner.
I think I could be a good runner, too. Right now my shins hurt, and my times are atrocious, but I've never really worked hard at it. After my injury in high school I was always kind of nervous. On top of that I was a sprinter, and my endurance sucked. But I know a little better now what it means to work hard at something, and what kind of pain needs attention and what kind of pain is just your body's version of whining. I know myself a little better now, and what I'm capable of, and so I'm suddenly (and a bit ridiculously) interested in being a runner, an athlete.
So bear with me while I talk about it too much. It's making me happy.