Saturday, March 16, 2013

Life of a Runner: Part III

Into the Void
For many years competitive running gave her life a certain symmetry.  Each year was divided into seasons, each season into phases: the pre-season, the early season opener meets, the mid-season, and the championships, a week or two of rest, followed by training for the next season.  Starting with  high school cross-country and track, later with collegiate competition, and then post-collegiate racing, running was the axis around which her life revolved. 

When she started out, continual improvement seemed possible.  She knew no limits and she dreamed big.  Her first few seasons were marked by continual improvement.  Her hard work paid off in a big way.  The realities of time and injuries tempered her dreams, however.  Years without improvement led her to the acceptance that she would only be 'elite' in her dreams.  She would always be great at running but never among the best. 
 As she accepted her limitations, she pursued other life goals.  She completed her higher education, completed her Master's Degree, and found a meaningful career in counseling.  Along the way, she formed many meaningful relationships and friendships. 
Still, running remained her greatest passion in life.  In the years following her collegiate racing, running became more of a personal pursuit.  She ran, and won, some road races, but ultimately she most enjoyed the training, the continual physical challenge, pushing personal limits, and every once in a great while,  the excitement of a new breakthrough.

Periodically, she would swear off competitive running.  But, running itself, she could not quit.  It had become such a part of her being.   The longer she ran, the more natural running had become.  It was as natural as eating or sleeping.  It was vitally important to her and as life-sustaining as breathing.
Where life was generally unstable, running was a constant.  Jobs went from good to bad.   People came and went.  Alcohol worked until it stopped working.  Drugs worked but caused problems.  Sex often left her feeling emptier. 

Running was always there.  Running provided a social network, a physical outlet, a steady stream of endorphins, a distraction from the mundane parts of life, a way to stay in shape, a physical challenge, an identity.

So, when the pain came, she ignored it, at first.   Then gradually, she cut back on her running.  She tried to run through the pain until, finally, it became unbearable.  When she could no longer run, she went to see the doctors, and her worst fears started to materialize.
 She struggled with denial, stubbornly refusing to accept reality.  This acceptance was slow to come and marred with bitterness and sorrow.

She could not run anymore. 





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