This morning I woke up slowly to the sounds of airplanes flying overhead, cars driving passed our home, and the air conditioning blowing cool air throughout the room. I can’t remember the last time I got this much rest and could feel every fiber in my being thanking me for taking this time to recover.
The last few days I’ve had to take time off of running from severe pain in my shins. In the course of recovering, I’m starting to feel an improvement and have to stay positive that it may be slow getting back into it, but I will get there. I’m a little more than half way through my training for the NYC Marathon in November. I’ve logged 209 miles in the last 9 weeks – waking up before the sun almost daily, dedicating countless hours every week to the mental preparation and physical endurance of running is something woven into all facets of my life and I couldn’t be more grateful for the ability to move my body in this way and challenge my mind to overcome and/or embrace whatever lies ahead.
During my Long Run last Saturday, I could feel familiar aches in my shins at the onset but kept running with the blind faith that the pain would fade with each step. Determined to complete my 14 miles, I focused on the lake and boats floating in the water, watched the sun change shape behind the clouds and listened to the fierce waves of Lake Michigan climb over the beach walls, onto the running path. It was a bit nerve-wracking in the moment and runners had to deviate from the path to avoid it. Later I heard in the news that a man who was running that same day got swept in and drowned due to the massive waves. I’m saddened by this and pray for his departed soul and those affected by this tragedy; reminding myself how precious life is and to appreciate even the simplest things, like waking up this morning to a brand new day.
As I approached my halfway point, I could see flocks of seagulls gathered near the harbor, soaring very low in the air, almost within arm’s reach. I was taken aback by the sight of this and had to pause to take it all in: The freeness and fearlessness in which the birds moved independently and as a community, I both admired and envied.
Contrary to years past where I ran with friends in groups and we supported each other by chatting and laughing through the miles so they didn’t feel as long, and leaning on one another when powering through felt impossible – this year my runs have mostly been solo and this comes with its share of personal accountability and intrinsic motivation that I’ve had to ingrain in myself day in and day out. As someone who has struggled with mood disorders among other mental health challenges my whole life, being a champion for myself has never come easy and in so many ways, running has saved me from its suffocating grip.
I don’t talk about my mental health often because of the stigma it entails but I intend to do so more to break that stigma and carve a space in the world where I can be myself and those like me can live openly and be respected and celebrated for all ways of being. Dismantling the prison within myself has been my life’s journey, a journey I show up for and intend to conquer everyday for the rest of my life.
This year I’ve learned and continue to learn to be at peace with my own company, to rely on the sound of my own steps, heartbeat, and breath to lead the way, and to repeat mantras that reinforce I am capable, I am strong, I am resilient, and I am only as free as I allow myself to be.