I’ve lost a step.
I say that but it’s not exactly true. If I’m being fully honest I know I’ve lost more than just one. Last year I was faster than I am now, the year before even faster than that. That’s the problem with running: you always know how quick you are, or in my case, how quick you are not. You can think back to the last time you did this race or the last time you ran this route or what it felt like last year at this time or the year before, there are guideposts so you always know, you will never not know.
I am not a natural runner. It is something I force myself to do because I want to be a good example for my children, I want to be good to my body so I can be here a long time, I am refusing my age. It is not easy. My legs are not long and my body is heavy. I am strong though, yes, I am that. It is force of will that propels me forward more than any natural physicality. I will get where I need to be because I need to be there.
This winter has been hard. Migraines have kept me in, then weather, then children. Running is the loaded dishwasher and the two laundry baskets on the sofa, and the dust on the dining room table: another undone chore.
I know I’ve lost a step and it’s torture. It doesn’t seem fair that something I’m already not great at is now harder. This morning, thirty degrees feeling like sixty degrees since it’s been twenty degrees for so long, two women in front of me looked back over their shoulders and smiled and moved over to the side of the snow-narrowed path so I could pass. They had heard me coming, my breath escaping in gasps, heavy footfalls slamming the pavement as I lumbered. There was no way they could not have heard me.
I saw this on Facebook awhile ago: a photo of a woman stretching her body, her pleasure at her physical form clearly visible on her face, the caption: I don’t run because I hate my body, I run because I love my body. I laughed. Good for you, sweetheart, I thought, wondering what that must feel like. A friend asked me once how I made myself do it, how I began running and how I kept at it. I told her, “Well, I just got to the point where I hated myself so much I had no other choice.” She half rolled her eyes at me because she is used to my bullshit, but she also knew it was true. It is. And it’s why I keep going.
Why on a day like today which is packed with a hundred things I slipped on my shoes and my stocking cap and went down to the trail. Why I picked my way around drifts of snow and sheets of ice to find a straight stretch where I could push myself a little. Why I turned on the music loud to drown out the sound of my hard breaths and thumping feet. My phone does not ring. I do not compulsively check my email. I am alone in a way that I am never alone. I feel my physical self and it reminds me of my power. This task is the only one I do only for me.
I have lost a step but I keep going because there are places I just need to be.