I often feel like the time I spend running is when I’m the most alive. When I am really, truly me, at my best, and at my happiest. It’s an incredible feeling. And then my run ends, and I come back to reality.
In reality, running feels like this secret identity that I have. Most of my running happens early in the morning, so early that you could almost still call it night. In fact, it’s still dark, and nearly everyone I know is asleep, so “night” would be a pretty good definition. I get up at crazy hours, get in a great run in my basement, and then return to the real world where I shower and prepare for the day ahead.
By the time I arrive at work, my run is often forgotten. Completely. I will pass runners on my drive in and find myself thinking, “I wish I could go for a run,” before I remember that I already have. There’s something about running in the pre-dawn hours that make the activity feel almost mystical.
The weekends are different. I run out in the real world, with real people, and it’s pretty much always light out. There’s no way to forget that my weekend runs have happened. My long runs often take up half the day as it is, so many times, that is my daily activity. And yet, because these runs happen with other people, people that I usually only see when I am running, they still feel a bit separate from my everyday life.
Sometimes I love the fact that running is my own special thing. Having it be such a private activity makes it feel all the more special. Like I have this really cool secret about my days that no one knows about.
At other times, it’s not so cool. This past Saturday, I ran 19 miles on my favorite trails. I ran an almost identical route last weekend, and the run totally owned me. I was exhausted and struggling, and it was all I could do to keep plugging forward. This week, the temperatures gave us the first taste of spring, and my running felt renewed as well. I ran with the same friend from last week, the one who totally smoked me a week previously. And this week, I nearly kept up with her, which is saying something as she is definitely a faster runner than I am. I resolutely pushed up the hills, and flew along the trails, and I felt such joy in those 19 miles. On Sunday, I woke up and went out for a 5-mile recovery run. The temperatures were still warm and I pushed the pace a bit despite my best intentions. When I looked at my splits for the third mile, I discovered that I had just run an 8:50 min/mile. I’m lucky to log that for one mile on a really good, rested day, so to do it coming off a hilly long run was pretty shocking. I finished up my run and threw in a round of squats and lunges just to top off the workout. My legs were clearly tired from the day before. And yet I felt amazing. Strong. It was a hint that all of this hard work from the past few months might actually be paying off. I was riding a total high.
Then today arrived. And I was back to being a normal person. No one at work cares how fast my weekend runs were, or how much better my long run went compared to the week before. I can’t blame them. Of course it’s not as exciting to them. They aren’t there every step of the way like I am, putting in all of the work. It makes total sense that this matters more to me than anyone else. Still, sometimes I wish I could share this amazing feeling. It feels wonderful to have this secret life, but it can be a little bit lonely too. I wonder if any other runners feel the same way?