There’s something in the rhythm of running that just seems to soothe me. Ask any runner; the only thing that really calms me down after a hard or stressful day is a nice, long, solo run.
I’ve started running without my watch lately– something that would shock many of my training partners (I always liked knowing our exact distance and splits so I could compare them to past runs — I am a true competitor, especially against myself). Being able to run until I feel like stopping, instead of when I “need to,” is so so liberating. Years and years of having exact training plans and pain-stakingly thought out workouts has mentally exhausted me.
Now, I can go out and run nineteen miles, do a made-up fartlek consisting of “sprint until I hit that tree, walk until I reach that corner,” or just run around the block and walk as far as I like. The point is, it’s up to me.
I’m not running for distance or time right now. I’m not running for PR’s right now (although those are always nice). And even though I’m slated to run the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st, I don’t technically need to run that, either. I’m just running for myself.
There was a long time when nothing brought me joy. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat; couldn’t even get out of bed. The very thought of tying my shoes exhausted me, let alone getting up and running five or six miles. It was a very dark and very sad couple of months for me.
But one day, after some time and coaxing from my friends and family; I put on my old blue adizero shoes. It had been five months since my last run, and I started so so slowly. Every step took herculean effort, and I walked as much as possible. But I got back into it. One day I ran 6 miles straight, and then 7, and then 8. A year later, I was training for my first marathon.
Though I was running slower than I had ever been before, I was starting to feel like my old self again. The Nikki who liked to run around in the middle of the street at 2 in the morning (completely sober) was making a comeback. The terrified blob of depression that consumed me and used to chant in my head over and over–“What are you even doing here?”–was diminishing into a low hum.
I still have my bad days. Days when the hum is amplified and is almost paralyzing; days when the absolute last thing I want to do is move. The difference now is that I still get out of bed, lace up my new Altras, and head out the door.
My slow footfalls and gentle breathing drown out the noise, leaving nothing behind me.