I ran to heal, I claimed. It was a neat, tidy motivation, one I could tuck in my mind like I tuck my key in my shoelace. Committing to the half marathon would help me get over a failed relationship while providing a new milestone, something flashy to cloak raging feelings of inadequacy, something shiny to brandish when asked, “What’s new?”
Running is the constant, physical manifestation of moving forward, I theorized; therefore, my mind and emotions would follow the same progressive path. When I crossed the finish line in October, I would be healed.
But in the tired delirium of being trapped in my brain for up to three hours over 13-some miles of pavement, I found myself anchored not to the glittery, “What’s new?”-worthy future but to the past. I ran forward, reciting entire conversations in my mind, the ones I deleted from my phone but couldn’t erase from memory, the impact of my shoes creating a disjointed beat; I slid into madness even as I made physical progress.
During the particularly tough mileage days, I found myself breathlessly mumbling strings of jumbled sentences, something like, “You can do it, three more miles, I hate you, why couldn’t you have kept me around, there might be a bug in my eye, don’t say things you don’t mean, don’t say you want to stay friends, why the hell did you register for the half.”
As the training runs have stretched on, I’ve learned to dedicate each mile to one thought, idea or regret, throwing my whole body and mind into its fitful rumination, contemplation and eventually, meaningful reflection.
Sometimes I even manage to sneak in an A-ha! moment or epiphany — something new to tuck in my shoelace.