I used to be a runner. One of those people who go on runs that last two hours or more, who run through snow and rain, shin splints and stress fractures (in the femur!) People who don’t need motivational quotes because running is in their blood. It’s what they do; who they are. That used to be me. I used to run forty minutes every other morning to catch the train to work, carrying a backpack with a change of clothes. Sometimes I ran to soccer games, playing both halves and still with energy to spare when the whistle blew. I’ve run through the streets of Japan and the highlands of Scotland. Aside the Great Lakes of Canada and along the canals of London. I ran barefoot across the sand in Thailand, and with sand in my shoes on the coast of Tunisia.
I always thought that I would be one of those people who ran through all three trimesters of pregnancy and were back pounding the pavement the day after giving birth (well, maybe two days after). But I have to admit the running slowed down long before the babies came along. Before the enormousness of pregnancy or the sleepless nights of babyhood. The running fever that gripped me throughout my teenage years and university days has been somewhat elusive for a while now. Oh, I still run every so often. The new mud smell of spring, or the crispness of the air in fall will ignite a tiny spark of that old flame, that compulsion to fly along a muddy trail, jumping over tree roots and ducking branches. I’ll dig out my old shoes, grab my iPod (if I can find where I last hid it from the kids) and burst out the door in pursuit of a euphoria otherwise known as the runner’s high.
Although these days I wouldn’t call myself a runner in public, that sense of running being a part of who I am remains. I will always associate fall with cross country runs through the woods. Training runs filled with pyramids and fartleks, hills and tempos. Long runs full of songs and stories, laughter, and sometimes tears. There are pieces of me that were formed on those runs. Running means pushing your limits. It means overcoming the part of you that says ‘I can’t’. My confidence, the sense of who I am as a person, all that has come from the understanding – and peace – that running brings. And as I watch the light of the dawn slowly illuminate the sky, the trees, the river and, finally, the ground under my feet, I know who I am again. I am a runner.