Ever have a running week that sucks? Not just a run: every run, for a week. That was this week.
The first months back to running felt like that honeymoon period when you get back together with a lost love: every day is sunshine and rainbows, why did we ever break up, I love you so much, let’s never fight again. Then he leaves the toilet seat up for the 40th time, and never did get rid of the snarling morning breath, when is he going to burn that ratty pair of sweatpants? The magic fades.
That was this week: me and running, we had our first tiff since getting back together.
First, the Monday campfire run. It was cold AF but the group stayed warm doing hill intervals. Being careful – listening to my body – I opted to run flats between the group’s moving hill locations. I didn’t bring the dog, first mistake. Running through a single-track trail in the dark, following a pair of strange footprints, I was swinging my headlamp around like a lighthouse, certain that I was just one frantic spin away from a horror movie jump scene. After too many stops and starts, I was frozen and called the run, heading back by myself to warm up after a sad 30 minutes on the trails, most of the time spent yelling into the darkness, “I know karate and my husband is right behind me!” I don’t know karate. Todd was miles away.
The second run, the mid-week Mystery Run, was akin to a half-hearted apology when your better half knows they’ve screwed up and have to do something but don’t really feel like it. First, Disdainful Tween Daughter says she wants to come on the run. What? Really? I quickly hide my delight behind a passive demeanor before Uncool Mom ruins the moment. Then, right before the run, she changes her mind, which results in a lovely sonnet called “You’re going” and a sulky refrain of “You’ll regret making me” for the entire drive to the run.
Arriving at random location near unknown trail, a quick group of guys congregate for the adventure. Where are the ladies who like to chat? The group takes off and I’m alone navigating dark trails, again without the dog. When will I learn. After almost falling off a cliff and then scaring a porcupine who comes within seconds of quilling me, I’m craving some company. At the group’s first @sshole stop, I mention that doing a slinky run would be nice. Like many good men out there, they hear what I say, even make a nodding gesture like they understand, but recognition is far, far away as testosterone and competition glaze over good intentions. Gone again.
This time, Less Disdainful Daughter having-a-good-time-against-her-will decides to stay back with me. “Mom, you lead.” Awww. Inspired by her company, I’m moving like a gazelle, turning my legs over with unbelievable grace. Then, I make the mistake of looking back. She’s walking behind me. Right behind me. Walking!! Yeah, I know she’s fit and I’m returning to fitness, she’s tall and I’m short, but really! Finally, I tell her to at least pretend to run because this is way too disheartening. Good kid complies with a wry smile, wasn’t it just last year when she couldn’t catch me? I’m so out of shape. This effin’ sucks.
Going for a trifecta, I head out on the Saturday run, Snakes and Ladders. Today, I’m going to own those hills, first time not modifying since my return to running bliss! One problem: the Good Parent in me brought the kids, not thinking that the Good Runner in me was going to pay dearly for that decision. Mere minutes into the run, the group has disappeared out of sight and it’s just me on an icy sidewalk berating my daughters who are moving so slowly, moss could grow on them. After I’ve woken up most of the neighbourhood dogs and just as I’ve exhausted my reserves of motivation, the girls perk up like a shot of caffeine and spryly run away to enjoy the trails while I stumble behind, reaching for wisps of elusive energy.
At last, I find the group doing loop repeats, even timing my entrance well enough to enjoy the company of another runner for a couple minutes. Human adult conversation on the trails? I’m back! But as quick as they’ve come, they’re gone, chatter floating along to another runner as they skip the hill that I’m so committed to completing. Left alone with my Good Intentions, I am tenacious in doing the run properly, pushing hard on the ups and flats, recovering on the downs. With nobody in sight, and Sidney the Dog too busy rolling in snow to carry on her end of the conversation, the frustrations of this week’s runs deflate me. Just as I’m about to call another disheartening run and head back, a runner comes around the corner with a “way to go”, then another one right behind shares a high five. As each runner passes me on the loop of torturous hills and stairs, I’m engulfed in voices of support all around me.
Re-invigorated, I spend the last ten minutes thanking myself and nature and my dog for a beautiful day to enjoy a beautiful run. Yeah, maybe this week’s runs were frustrating. But, three times this week, I’ve taken time for me, in whatever form it took – something I didn’t used to do very well. With lighter footsteps, I trot back to the group, finding friendly faces and cheery smiles in a warm coffee shop – including those of three sweaty, happy girls. Runs can be hard and life can still be good. Besides, what’s the alternative? Stop running? We made a commitment to each other; I’m not breaking that over a little tiff.