A mountain of time has passed since I wrote thoughts of mine with any intent for them to be shared. My monologues and my life have been decidedly closed for a long time now. At this point, almost no one knows where I am and what I’m doing; for all intents and purposes, it would seem I’ve fallen off the face of the earth. In many ways I have, but if there is one of which anyone can be assured. Wherever I am, I am running.
Within the next week, I will have logged over 700 miles of running this year. Perhaps with the only exceptions being a 10k and a half marathon, those miles were logged in solitude. It’s not easy running alone. Over 100 hours of one foot in front of the other, the glare of headlights at night, greeted by sun, rain, wind, hail, snow, and ice, listening to the serenade of rubber shoes greeting the pavement and leaving fragments of themselves behind.
Maybe sometimes I’m running to reach a goal. Other times, it would seem like I’m running away from something. It could be both. I’m running from reality, finding comfort in my worst fears because their terrors are far more compassionate than the truth; the nightmares are my solace. It’s the waking up that I’ve dreaded. Yet, as surely as I run to escape my reality, I am running towards hope…hope that there is something better ahead, somewhere. Anywhere. For a time, I had stopped believing, not just losing sight of hope, but losing the ability to imagine what hope could ever look like or where it could ever be found. But now I run.
It’s not easy running alone, mile after mile. In those wide open spaces, you face a lot of demons. It could be said, every day out there is a war. Most days, victory is just as simple as committing to run. Daily determination to go and run, no matter what, gives me the upper hand in the battle of mind and body. I can honestly say, I would not have survived this far into the year were it not for the strength I’ve found in running. Every day is a challenge, but the lines of conflict are clearly defined. My goal is to be superior to my former self, and the goal is obtainable. Every day has that battle, and every day, it is a battle I can win. I gave up on the future, and I’m finally ok with that. The future is so vague and uncertain, and a person like me can get so wrapped up in the possibilities that the present is lost. For me, for now, there is only the present. There is today. And today is mine.
Now, just days away from the biggest race of my life, I see the strangest parallel between training and living. My heart is filled with appreciation and resentment. As my feet repetitively greet the pavement, I’ll be surrounded by something foreign to me. There will be faces, hundreds and thousands of faces lining the way, cheering, chanting, encouraging us along. I run alone. My joys and sorrows, my euphoria and pain are mine. I’ve come to know them all so intimately, and yet suddenly a mob is rejoicing over every step I take, telling me I can make it. I will appreciate it greatly. For a moment the world recognizes, appreciates, and celebrates what has led me to this moment. I’ll definitely appreciate it.
All the while, a part of me wonders if I will resent it as well. There’s that voice deep inside asking, “Where were you when I faced sub-zero wind-chills and froze the capillaries in my hand? Where were you when I limped from the car to the gym because I had to get that workout in? Where were you when the sweat-diluted tears ran down my face as a struggled to find the will to put in one more mile? Where were you I was ready to give up? You weren’t there. I was running alone!” The intellectual resentment grows as I ponder over how many people cheering by the wayside have even the slightest clue what it takes to make it this far. But then I ask myself, does it matter? I’ve made it this far. I made it without the crowd. I don’t need them. I can finish this without a soul watching or cheering me on. So what? They ARE there. They ARE cheering. They won’t always be there. Their voices won’t always be shouting. So appreciate it. And finish the race. For you. For them. And most of all, for those who can’t.
And so it translates into the rest of my life. From the moment my world fell apart until now, I have been alone. In the past nine months, the worst stretch of it all, I can count on ONE HAND the number of people who know me who have actually checked on me more than once every couple of months. A face recognized and a name known across the country, and yet the number of people who have consistently checked on me more than once every few months is less than five. I’ve been living alone, trying to believe I’m bigger than everything that’s happened, but knowing deep down inside that I’m not, all the while attempting to convince myself it’s better to live half alive than not to live at all, though it may not seem to be so in the midst of such grave darkness.
For all intents and purposes, just as in my training, I’m alone. I’m coming to a place where I’m ok with that. I’m coming to a place where I don’t hold it against anyone for not standing by my side through it. If the truth be told, scarcely a soul yet even knows of the darkness of which I speak, so how could someone rally or stand by my side through it all? Everyone has always looked up to me. I was the hero. I was the giant. No one expects such a one to have needs or suspects the demons they must be fighting alone.
I just ask myself, will that moment come when I’m running along and hear the shouts of a crowd ahead? Will there come a moment when people can see how far I’ve been running alone and recognize, appreciate, and celebrate every step I take? I don’t know if it will. I tell myself it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned through the pain, sweat, and tears, the victories and defeats, the angels and demons, the mountain tops and the valleys that I can do this. I can keep running…alone. I don’t need the crowd to cheer me on. I’d finish the race even if they weren’t there because life has forced me to be this strong just to survive. But if there ever is that moment, if there ever is a crowd, if anyone can ever imagine or conceive of where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through, if they do shout my name and tell me I can make it, I will appreciate it. And I’ll keep running. I will finish the race. For me. For them. And most of all, for those who can’t.