Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays have become my favorite and least favorite days of the week. It's the day that I run with people who are much faster. And by much faster I mean that I spend 5 miles trying not to throw up with they are trotting along looking bored. I hate these days because who wants to spend all that time trying not to throw up in front of other people? And I love them because I am finally pushing myself to become a better runner.
I know that a lot of people don't understand why I run. And I know that because they tell me. I'm not the best or the fastest and I never will be and yet I spend hundreds of dollars every year to enter races that I won't win. I spend hours that turn into days sweating into my eyes and ears and popping blisters and putting aloe on rashes from my clothes and icing my knee when it's raining and standing in the shower because I am so frozen solid that I don't think I will ever feel my toes again.
And I get it. If I wasn't me I wouldn't understand it either. Especially since I met someone a couple of months ago who HAS been the best, the winner, the 5-6 minute mile runner so I know what drives him even though he has never told me.
But I can tell you the exact minute I became a runner. In 2009 I started walking after work to lose weight. Then I slowly started running, for 30 seconds at a time. After a few months of that I managed a mile. And after a few months of that I signed up for a 5k and did that and thought I was amazing. Still, none of that made me a runner.
On October 31, 2009 at 8am my phone rang and woke me up from a deep sleep. I had been at a work Halloween party the night before and even though I left around 10pm, I drove around until midnight because something felt off in my universe. Something I couldn't put my finger on. So I was out late and got home after midnight and then had a hard time falling asleep which led to me still sleeping at 8am even though I rarely sleep that late.
The phone call was from my high school best friend, someone who I never talked to until my theater class when I was 17 and have loved dearly since. She was upset with my because I hadn't told her that my dad had died. That she had just read his obituary in the paper and it said he passed away on Thursday and here it was Saturday so why hadn't I told her?
It's because I didn't know.
And I really don't want to get into the back story of it but if you knew me when I was small, before my parents decided to separate, you would know that my dad was my world. But because of circumstances I had no control over I had decided 5 years previous to his passing to sever ties with him to make his life easier. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but I would probably do it again if I had to. But because of this I never knew he was sick. He didn't want me to know. He didn't think that he was so close to the end. He didn't know that he wouldn't have another chance to see me. And neither did I.
At 8am on October 31, 2009 my entire world fell out from under my feet. Have you ever heard that expression, "No regrets"? It's the biggest bunch of crap I have ever heard. Regret is something you don't really understand until it hits you in the face with its finality. Until you're pacing the floor for hours and don't even know how it went from 8am to 2pm. Until you stand in the middle of the living room, staring at the wall and wondering what could you have done differently? What could you have changed? And did he know? Did he know how much you loved him? And did he think of you before he was gone?
I somehow drove to the lake that day. I can't tell you how but I did. I remember standing there, in the same exact spot I had stood on countless times before getting my ipod ready and untangling my headphones and straightening my shoelaces, and wondering what to do next. And I did the only thing I could: I ran.
I only ran for two miles that day but I felt everything in the past 29 years of my life drain beneath my feet. The regret and the agony and the sadness and the fear, all of it. Just gone. I cried but I didn't know why because my mind was completely blank. I ran for the first time not with a goal of finishing but just because I could. And when I was done I got in my car and drove home and got up the next day and did it again. And again. And every day I could since.
I know most people don't have that story of how they became a runner. I know it's because they are good at it or a friend got them into it or the entered a race and loved it. And none of these stories make them any more or any less of a runner than I am. This is just mine. I am a runner because I need to be. And I will be as long as I am able to.