It’s raining, still, though I pull on my sneakers and wrap my water bottle belt tightly around my waist. I’m not sure what to wear, this in-between weather, so I settle on capris and a t-shirt.
The first ten minutes are cold, but then my blood rushing warms me. I run and I run and I run. I hash out every emotion I’ve felt over the fast few months and I run through anger. I run through justification and I run through fear. My legs are tired, but I keep running.
I zone in and out, sometimes listening and half dancing to the songs, sometimes completely unaware of them. I run for 18 kilometres. And then I turn around and start running home.
These days are completely consumed by epically long runs. I run when I don’t think I can anymore and I run when I really don’t want to anymore and I run when I’m tired and when I’m just plain bored. I run even though my feet hurt from all this damn running. I keep running up the worst hill of all and at the end, just when you’d think I’d be happy it’s almost done, I have to fight the hardest to finish the last 1k. My legs are so tired and are burning. My feet hurt, my back is sore, my face is crusted with the salt from my sweat. I want to stop and six minutes shouldn’t feel this long, it shouldn’t conjure an epic battle of will, of self-talk.
I get home and immediately take off my sneakers and socks. My cold and clumsy hands make two peanut butter and jam sandwiches, drips of jam dropped on the counter. I don’t care. I can’t think of anything but not moving anymore. I climb up the stairs and start the tub, eat my sandwiches as quickly as my stomach will allow. I peel off my wet running clothes and sit in the tub, rinse my face, lay back. Turn the tap to hotter. Stretch my tired legs. Wash my hair and then lay cheek deep in the water, thinking nothing. Feeling nothing except my muscles.
I get out and the chill has set in from that long, damp rain. I dry off quickly and wrap my housecoat around me, climb into bed. When my runs were shorter, I would relish the rest afterwards, playing on my laptop, writing out everything I had thought during my run. Now they are too long, I am too tired, and so, I sleep deeply for an hour.
I wake, but my head remains in a cloud. I am fatigued in the most primal of ways. My body is too tired to let my brain think. I dress quickly and pull my still-wet hair into a ponytail. I don’t care how tired my eyes look or how rumpled I feel. I drive to daycare and get my kids.
We eat cereal for supper, because I’m too tired to even put chicken in the oven. They are happy to do so, and then after, we cuddle on the couch.
I am so, so ready for this marathon to be over. I’m ready to go for a bike ride or a swim instead of a run. I’m ready to maybe be able to run without obsessing about my pace. I’m ready to let my body rest, to not push it to the point of extreme fatigue for a while. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I know that I’ve found something on these long runs that I can never let go.
I’ve found peace. From a million different things and demons and ghosts. From a million different voices and questions and points of doubt. I’ve found a part of me that exists for no other person but myself. A part of me that exists for no other reason than to run. And that’s a powerful discovery. Because on that long and lonely trail, I’m alone. Utterly and completely.
To appreciate being alone, to be able to find strength in your loneliness… when you get there, you’ll realize that the strength comes from within you. That it was always there and will be always there.
That’s why I know I’ll do this again, because it’s the only thing I’ve ever done that’s made me feel this way, and I can’t ever give that up.