A Love Letter To Long-Distance Running

image - Flickr / Nadine Heidrich
image – Flickr / Nadine Heidrich

Dear Running,

This letter wasn’t easy to write. I realize we’re on a break, but please know that wasn’t by choice. As the cliché goes, it’s not you—it’s me. I was told I need some “time to myself.” To let myself “recover”—and in the process, self-discover. Still, I can’t help but miss you.

I miss the way you challenge me. Every. Goddamn. Day. Pushing me farther, faster, past the limits and expectations I set for myself—miles and miles past them. And I miss the confidence you give me—you don’t just know my body, you understand and appreciate it. Our sweat-dripping, heart-pounding, breathtaking times we share, then the “high” I get as we finish happily together. You’re ready to go whenever I am, and while sometimes I’m “too tired,” you know I can’t refuse your offer—a physical fulfillment I don’t get from anyone else. You make me weak in the knees, literally.

On those good days, our relationship is euphoric. But on our bad days, the pain is unparalleled. I hate your brutal honesty, and how you hold nothing back from me. While I try to stay tough, I can’t help but wonder how you can hurt every inch of my body so deeply. It’s that ever-unanswered paradox—how can something that gives me such pleasure also cause so much pain? How is it that the body you shape is the same one you deteriorate?

Yet lately, the mental anguish is most unbearable. I don’t get it, I’m exactly “your type”—long and lean, athletic build. And I try to keep things fresh between us—new routes, techniques, and terrains so we don’t lose interest in each other. Still, I’m being told to stay away from you. “Take some time off,” they tell me. “Try something else instead.” But you tease me, taunt me, tempt me to remain faithful to you, even though we both know you’re not what I need right now.

And most of my friends hate you—“How can you LOVE running?” they probe. Your name doesn’t sit well in our society, either—“running out of money,” “running out of time,” “running out of reasons/room/patience/options.” I’m sick of having to explain you. Others just don’t understand. They don’t know you like I do. Our twisted, love-hate, push-pull relationship cannot be put into words. Perhaps because a lot of times (namely 6 AM when it’s 35 degrees and raining), I don’t love you, I loathe you. Still, I always find myself running back to you.

So I guess it’s true…I really can’t resist “the chase.” While it hasn’t been easy, our relationship is deep and dynamic—you know sides of me I’ve never shown anyone before. All my weaknesses, celebrations, insecurities, extreme highs and lows, you’ve experienced right alongside me. My mom’s cancer? You were my cure. My dad’s addiction? You were my distraction. School, jobs, travel, relationships, family—in every stage of my life, you’ve been my escape, and I’ve taken comfort in your company.

But nevermind the negatives, we’ve seen beautiful things together. Sunrises, beaches, mountains—you name it, we’ve run it. You’ve taken me places I’d never have the courage to explore alone. You’re the one I wake up to every morning, and you help me fall asleep at night. You’ve so graciously let me take both pain, and pleasure, out on you.

Until recently, you were my rock.

And now, I find myself fighting to forget our past. I’m trying hard not to need you because I know you can’t be there for me forever, and I won’t always be able to give you what you need. I will age. My body will wither and weaken. And physically, we won’t fulfill each other anymore. While it scares me to admit, our time together will, for lack of better words…run out.

Although the doctor reassures me this is just a “bump in the road,” it’s undoubtedly a foreshadowing of the uncertain future ahead of us. Someday I’ll find myself back here, back on the sidelines, permanently. But you? You’ll be fine. You’ll move on to other younger, newer models with miles ahead of them. I’ll cringe in jealousy as you sprint past me together, and I’ll feel even more broken, like damaged, overused goods.

Yes, our road ahead is unclear, but we’ve tackled tough courses together before. And I’m excited by the opportunity to take each hill, each curve, each hurdle in stride, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other just like we’ve always done. Because I’m not ready for a negative split. Not yet. I can’t ask you to change—I know you never will—so I’ll continue to give you my best, all of me, and expect nothing in return except simply the pleasure of your presence. I’ll never forget, nor regret, our times together. I may not always be able to run, but because of you I have strength to at least stand on my own two feet, no matter how aged, calloused and cracked they may be.

Gotta run. Love you always,

Me TC mark

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