I run almost every day. This is a relatively new thing for me – when Shawn was alive, I did a lot of walking, and I went to the gym a few times a week. But I wasn’t a consistent runner.
Shawn was religious about his workouts. He did CrossFit all the time and ran on the days when he wasn’t at the gym. He went through a period of time when we were both in our early 30s when he wasn’t working out at all. But he woke up one morning in his late 30s and told me that he had gained too much weight and he was going to start working out.
He lost 50 pounds in 6 months. It was inspiring. But not inspiring enough, apparently, as I never really increased my workouts. Still, it was really nice to have a husband who was in such good shape. “Damn,” I can remember thinking a number of times when he’d be changing after the shower. He was strong but not showy about it, which of course made it all the more attractive.
Once Shawn died, my anxiety was so bad that I did almost anything I could to relieve it. For a while, sleeping aids helped me make it through the night. But I knew I couldn’t do that forever. So I started to run. Now it’s a habit, and one that I fear missing each day because it might mean the return of the dreaded anxiety. (As a note, fellow widows, I still have anxiety! It’s just not crippling like it once was. Running is magic in that way.)
Anyway, I often run in the mornings, and I usually do it alone. It’s not because I don’t want company. I most certainly do. It’s just that there are very few people who want to get up and start running before six a.m. In the winter, I run on my treadmill, but the rest of the year, I run through DC neighborhoods. I do my best to run the entire time without stopping.
It’s quiet in the early dawn hours. I usually only see a few construction workers and an errant bleary-eyed person in a suit. Oh, and there is the old man I often pass near the end of my run, dressed in a bathrobe and walking his dog. He always has a leash in one hand and a drink in the other (coffee or vodka, who knows!) but he still manages to smoke a cigar that he balances in between his lips. Shawn would have gotten a huge kick out of that guy.
No one talks to me – not even this guy with the bathrobe. Instead, I play dance music and try to keep going when I get to the hills.
Some mornings, I fly through my run. I finish in record time and I stretch afterwards and sometimes I even dance a little to my music. I love those mornings.
But sometimes, I am tired. Sometimes I can feel the weight of my legs as I start out. On those days, I want to stop, to pause, to say I’ve had enough.
Those are the days when I refuse to let myself walk.
It’s not because I’m a great runner or have more conviction than most. It’s because if I stopped, I might never start again.
I was thinking about this the other day on one of my slow, tired runs. I wanted to walk so badly. But I knew I couldn’t. Like other aspects of my life, when things are the toughest, I have to keep going. Because if I stop – if I look around and realize how tired and emotionally drained and fed-up I really am – then I might really stop. And who knows what that would mean.
So I keep running.