I've not been running for almost two weeks. I got a cold, and then it finally went away, but as is my body's wont, I'm hanging on to the cough. Climb stairs? Cough cough cough. Take a deep breath? Cough cough cough. Start laughing hysterically? You guess it: cough cough cough. Tired lungs are not a good thing to take along on your run. Throw in some out-of-control hayfever (Singular is letting me down this year!) and running has seemed impossible.
But I miss it. I need it. So I went running this morning anyway.
Here's the thing I always struggle with, starting up again: my mind can deal with the long distances, but my body can't. Some runs are awesome; sometimes running feels like it does when I dream about running. Effortless. Today? Today was a hard run, even though I went slow. Every breath hurt, and my ITB hurt, and my feet. I was itching to go long but my my body got all sarcastic: yeah, not so much. I guess four miles was too long to start with.
In fact, I didn't even make my entire route. I did something I never, never, ever ever do: I walked the last quarter-mile or so. Lungs and knees were just not ready for any sort of distance yet. But even though it hurt, and I sort of felt like a failure for walking home, I'm glad I finally started again. Good runs don't require much mental coaxing, but the hard runs? The runs where you think "I want to stop right now" with every single step? They need lots of positive mental conversation. It's probably a very good thing that no one can hear what goes on in my head while I'm running. It's the only time I act like a cheerleader. "Just keep going! You can do it! Just a little bit longer! You're doing great!" There can't be any room for self-doubt or for negative mental conversations. I'm the only one who's going to make me keep going, and it takes all the positivity I can uncover to do it.
And like the runner's high that lingers on days when I've going running (even on hard-run days), the mental benefits of all that self-cheering stick around for the day. And that, really, is why I keep running. Not as much for the weight control and everything else that's good about exercising. It's because I need that time when, rather that my usual negative self banter, I'm cheering myself on. It's also why I think everyone should be a runner, but that's a different post for another day.