At one point in my life, I considered myself “a runner.”
Not a hardcore runner, or a marathoner — in fact, marathons have never been for me, a startling discovery I made in my mid-20s whose logic continues to elude me given that I am highly competitive and that my father has run marathons his entire life and that I am drawn to most things my Dad likes, his even-fleeting interest sparking my own, transforming — Midas-like — the formerly mundane into the fascinating.
But not marathons, though I can still recall my reverence and loose, mildly confused concern after finding him sprawled out on the sun-dappled floor of the sunroom of my childhood home, a tarp-like wrap beside him, eyes closed and a look of happy exhaustion on his face after running the Marine Corps Marathon when I was maybe eight. He has run dozens of marathons and thousands upon thousands of miles over the course of his life, usually at around 8 a.m. in the morning, and always punctuated by an entry in his runner’s journal, the sole entrant in his Christmas stocking every year for the past couple decades thanks to his ever-doting Mrs. Claus. As with everything in his life, he has always approached running with unyielding discipline that eventually gives way to non-flashy, unadorned prowess. On a family trip to Aspen four years ago, he led the way up to Independence Lake, a moderate hike at high altitude that we chose to tackle on our first day in town, before we’d fully acclimated to the elevation. My siblings and I were huffing and puffing, pausing intermittently to catch our breath, occasionally masquerading our exhaustion by pointing out some feature of the landscape: “Is that…um…the Roaring…Fork?” Meanwhile, my father — who had risen early to “get his six [miles] in,” barreled ahead, easily taking the summit while barely breaking a sweat. He was 70. We were in our early 30s. With his typical shrugging humility, he didn’t say anything about it, but I remember thinking: “Note to self: run every day for the rest of my life and have the body of a 30-year-old at 70.”
The experience reignited an interest in running — one I have pocketed and dropped with intermittence, usually alongside my sister Christina, since I was maybe 16 or 17. Sometimes, during the longer phases of commitment, I slowly begin to see myself as a runner. My legs take on a different sort of muscle tone. I catch a glimpse of myself running in the reflection of a storefront and I think: “Not a bad stride.” I buy things like running belts. I carve out routes I love and identify stretches I hate — whether because of incline, or too much foot traffic, or an unpleasant view, or the awareness that I am only halfway through my run at that particular milestone and I am always already tired. I push myself to run further, or faster, and I do it.
Since getting pregnant with Emory a few years ago, I have been woefully remiss in my commitment to any exercise regimen, let alone running. I have made peace with this, to be honest. I have long believed that I can only simultaneously juggle three things in my life with any kind of grace or success. For the near-term, exercise has necessarily fallen by the wayside as I focus on family, writing, and this vague but hefty category I’ll call “household administration.” Baby wipes need ordering, clothes need ironing, nursery floors need tidying, diaper pails need emptying, winter clothes need sorting to make way for spring: small activities so slender and second-nature they barely qualify as countable but that consume the vast majority of my day, when I am not nursing bumped elbows, filling snack cups, and soothing my boy back to sleep. If you were to watch a time-lapse video of me in my apartment on any given day, it would not surprise me in the least to discover that I spend a good half of the day in an inverted u shape, washing suds out of little heads in the bath, scooping up duplos off the living room floor, scrubbing stray stripes of yogurt off the mat beneath the high chair.
And so: exercise of the formal variety has fallen by the wayside.
Last week, though, a thought fluttered through my mind: maybe I would start running again, with the return of warm weather. Maybe — maybe my goal would be to be able to regularly run three or four miles every other day, as I did for many years in my 20s. Maybe — with the infancy days behind me, with more of a routine at home in place — maybe I would start, at some point in the future.
I walked around with this pleasant notion for a few hours and then thought of my Dad, who — if Benjamin Franklin hadn’t beaten him to it — would probably have coined the phrase: “Never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”
So I did. I went running. And have been running every other day since. It’s been an ungainly start: I am slow, and sore, and unable to hit my stride, and the mask-wearing thing makes me feel as though I’m suffocating. But it has also felt gorgeous to get outside by myself, to listen to music, to be alone with my thoughts, to challenge myself.
Mainly, it has felt good to do something entirely by myself, for myself.
So maybe it’s not running for you. Maybe it’s needlepointing, or baking, or painting, or woodworking, or gardening, or cycling. But I have been astounded by how grounded and peaceful I have felt after these solitary excursions, reclaiming a little bit of myself.
+In light of picking up running again, I had to revisit this post on my body image after giving birth to Emory. Still moves me to reread it.
+Running may eat into my quiet hour, which is mildly devastating. Going to see if I can motivate myself to get up before the children to get my run in…
+Exercise gear I LOVE, starting with these chic leggings seen on Tory Burch herself above!:
OBSESSED WITH MY KLEAN CANTEEN WITH THE SPORTS NOZZLE
LOVE THESE FOR RUNNING — THE SOUND ISN’T AS GOOD AS APPLE AIRPODS BUT THEN YOU DON’T RUN THE RISK OF LOSING THEM (ALSO, THESE ARE BORDERLINE UNBREAKABLE)
I WEAR AN APPLE WATCH WHEN I RUN WITH ONE OF THESE INEXPENSIVE BANDS (I HAVE THE PALE PINK)
WHEN I’M GOING FOR A WALK/SLOW JOG, I LIKE MY APLS (ON SALE!) — I PREFER THEIR STYLE, BUT I DON’T THINK THEY ARE AS COMFORTABLE AS NIKE FOR LONGER RUNS
I LIKE TO RUN IN A BLACK BALLCAP TO KEEP THE SUN OUT OF MY EYES AND PAPARAZZI AT BAY (LOL)
I LIKE LULULEMON SPORTS BRAS, THOUGH THEY RUN REALLY SMALL
FOR INCLEMENT OR WINDY WEATHER, THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST WINDBREAKER — OBSESSED WITH IT (ON SALE NOW!)
I PREFER LOOSE-FIT RUNNING TANKS
ORDERED THIS TO ADDRESS MY FEET…
+On a related note: loungewear I love.
+I guess I took a lot away from that hike in Aspen.
+SWOON. The Matches sale is just too good.