When I was growing up, my parents were both long-distance runners. As it sometimes is with parents who love something so fiercely, they tried to get my sisters and me to pick up the sport. The three of us just weren't having it, but that didn't stop my parents from trying.
Four or five times a week my parents would run the streets of Pittsburgh together. But every now and then they would gather my sisters and me up and head to the track at Carnegie Mellon University, just a mile or so from the house where I grew up, and it is there that some of my earliest memories live. We would sit in the bleachers or play on the edge of the football field while my parents circled the track over and over again, urging us to join in for a lap or two every time they passed by. The answer was always a resounding "no."
It took me twenty years to finally realize that my parents were exactly right; running was the sport that fit me like the proverbial glove. I loved the solo hours out on the streets, the exhaustion and elation of a long run, and the triumphant race finishes. I even loved the aching muscles, runs in the freezing cold or sweltering heat, and the equal mix of pain and pleasure that comes with being a runner.
But lately, that has all escaped me.
For a bunch of reasons, I had to cut way, way back on running for the past few months. As in, for almost four months, I couldn't run at all.
One day I'll tell that story, but that's not the story I'm writing today.
Even once I was given the green light to start running again, I had a really hard time getting back into the swing of things. The runners out there will understand. Starting again after being away for so many months might as well be starting from scratch and well, that just plain sucks. I kept making excuses to cut my runs short or to avoid them completely and do some kind of other exercise instead, but when you're a runner, sometimes no other exercise will suffice. Sometimes you just have to run.
So yesterday. Yesterday morning I woke up and, as per usual, my first thoughts were filled with all the things I had to do instead of running. Obviously something had to be done. So instead of going to the gym or to my regular running path, I decided to try something different.
I laced up my shoes, headed for the track at the local high school down the street from my house, and ran there. And the run was hard. Really hard. But there was something else too. Circling the track with its familiar red rubber coating, I thought about my parents and the love of running they passed to me, and everything that once attracted me to this mysterious and miraculous sport.
And for the first time in months, I felt strong. For the first time in months, I ended a run already looking forward to my next one.
I am a runner.
And I'm out of excuses not to be.